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NE Oregon highway sees frequent car accidents

Those experienced driving in Portland know that car accidents often occur in areas where driving can be treacherous. The Oregon Department of Transportation is hoping to shine some light on one such stretch of road in an effort to reduce motor vehicle accidents.

Interstate 84, which runs between Boise, Salt Lake City, and Portland, is especially prone to accidents in the Blue Mountains. This stretch of road, which parallels the Oregon Trail, has some areas of steep grades and sharp turns. The road is also exposed to dangerous weather conditions, like ice and snow. Many of the local residents also use the highway as a main thoroughfare; as a result the road sees a high traffic volume.

In most places, the highway is four lanes. The Oregon Department of Transportation has taken steps to make the road safer, including constructing snow fences to keep snow off the road, building truck escape ramps, widening the highway to give trucks a safer place to put on their chains, and installing heated wires under the pavement to keep ice from building up. In some of the more dangerous areas, they have installed warning signs that remind drivers to slow down and show drivers their current speed. In one such area, there were 11 crashes in a 9-year period, but since the signs have gone up there have only been two accidents in a four-year period.

While drivers are often most concerned about winter driving, the majority of the accidents on the Blue Mountain stretch of I-84 have occurred in the warmer months. In the last ten years 76 percent of the accidents occurred when the road was dry. Last year, 51 percent of the accidents occurred between April and September. Drivers are often more cautious during the winter months and tend to let their guard down during the summer. Excessive speed is the number one cause of auto accidents on this stretch of road.

Drivers must be cautious when driving in all conditions in the mountains. Excessive speed can cause serious problems. In the winter drivers must also be careful not to get lulled in to a false sense of security in the flat portions of the highway. These areas can be icy, and a car with the cruise control engaged can easily lose control. Drivers can stay up to date on the road conditions by checking the Oregon Department of Transportation website, www.tripcheck.com.

Source: Baker City Herald, "Interstate 84: Reputation Vs. Reality", Jayson Jacoby, Feb. 18, 2013.

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