Portland alcohol-related traffic fatalities likely increased during pandemic, officials say

Alcohol continues to be a major factor in deadly traffic crashes in Portland, according to the city’s transportation bureau.

In a press release Friday, the bureau said at least 43 people died in 2020 and 2021 from crashes in which police believe alcohol may have been a factor. The transportation bureau said that number will likely increase as it finalizes crash data.

Nationally, alcohol-related crashes increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson Dylan Rivera said Portland transportation officials expect to find a similar trend in Portland.

“It’ll take a couple of years for all that data to come through,” Rivera said. “But, anecdotally, we’re seeing more and more reports.”

An alleged DUI driver collided head-on with a person in another vehicle on Notheast Glisan Street near 152nd Avenue in December 2021, resulting in serious injuries.

More than a third of Portland traffic deaths from 2015 to 2019 involved alcohol. An additional 198 people suffered serious injuries, including brain damage and paralysis, due to alcohol-related crashes during the same period.

“The high number of traffic fatalities we had in 2021 and the high rate of traffic crashes we’ve seen during the pandemic has really caught a lot of people’s attention,” Rivera said. “We want folks to know that you don’t have to wait for a big-city infrastructure project to redesign a road to make it safer. There are things we can all do today to make our roads safer for everyone and help everyone get home safely. And one of those is to avoid drinking and driving and help other people avoid drinking and driving.”

Drinking and driving sharply increases the risk of killing or seriously injuring yourself or others. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect a person’s driving ability. Nationally, about 1,775 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2019 where a driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.01% to 0.07%, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Oregon has a blood alcohol content limit of 0.08%, but people can still face charges if they fail sobriety tests. In 2019, Oregon legislators considered but did not pass a bill to lower Oregon’s legal limit to 0.05%.

Rivera said people should avoid driving after drinking even just one drink.

Source: OPB

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