Portland’s public health crisis: Traffic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland has a public health crisis. It isn’t drugs or disease. It’s traffic.

That’s what Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat said in her first major policy speech Wednesday.

Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, April 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, April 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

“I’d call it a public health crisis in Portland,” she told KOIN 6 News.

“It’s because of fatalities and injuries and it’s a health crisis because the numbers increased last year,” Treat said, adding increased safety is her top priority.

Over the last 10 years, traffic deaths are down overall in Portland, though the number of deaths increased in 2013.

Over the past five years, 156 people died in traffic crashes in Portland. Of those, 59 were pedestrians.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t track deaths by city, but KOIN 6 News reviewed cities of similar population and looked at deaths in their county.

Of this group, Multnomah County came in last with 44 deaths in 2012. Oregon ranks 33rd in fatalities..

And an annual All State insurance report showed Portland ranks 154th out of the top 200 large cities in the likelihood of drivers being involved in an accident.

KOIN 6 researched similar size cities and the number of deaths per county in 2012

This graphic compares Portland with similar sized cities for traffic fatalities, April 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
This graphic compares Portland with similar sized cities for traffic fatalities, April 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Treat wants PBOT to get another $1 million of excess general funds in the next budget. They need the money to be better, she said.

“The number of people dying and being injured on our roadways is a public health crisis,” she said.

Multnomah County Public Health officials deferred comment on this, deferring to PBOT on this matter.

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