Quite literally, speed can kill. Especially, when a collision involves an automobile and a vulnerable road user. According to a 1999 study commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
“It was estimated that only 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour or less. This compares with fatality rates of 40, 80, and nearly 100 percent for striking speeds of 30, 40, and 50 miles per hour or more respectively.”
It makes a lot of sense that Bend along with other cities across Oregon have been trying to lower speed limits within their respective city limits. There’s been a consistent challenge in those efforts however. ORS 810.180, the Oregon Statute governing changes in roadway speed limits requires that the Oregon Department of Transportation have the final say for almost all roadway speed changes.
In off-the-record conversations I’ve had with City of Bend transportation staffers, they’ve complained over the years that ODOT’s process is so onerous that they’ve all but given up trying to change speed limits within Bend except in the most egregious cases. They just don’t have the resources or personnel to manage it.
That might change if Oregon Representative Rob Nosse gets his way. He’s introduced HB2682
to the House Committee On Transportation Policy with the hopes that his changes to ORS 810.180 would effectively hand back the power to make road speed changes back to the local road authority. In our town’s case, that mostly puts it back in the hands of either Deschutes County or the City of Bend.
Of course, changing speed limits and posting newly lowered speed signage won’t necessarily change behaviors. Stepped up enforcement will be needed. But, it’s a necessary start and important in my parts of Bend where our growing city boundaries have spilled over into areas once outside our urban growth boundaries.
Here’s to hoping this piece of legislation makes it out of committee.