Ore. troopers to boost patrols over Memorial Day weekend
5/25/2007, 12:53 a.m. PDT
The Associated Press

FLORENCE, Ore. (AP) Oregon State Police officials are increasing highway patrols in an attempt to save lives during a Memorial Day weekend that is expected to be sunny, warm and packed with drivers.

Though Memorial Day weekend doesn't immediately spring to mind as the most dangerous driving holiday, an Oregon Department of Transportation study found that it has a higher percentage of alcohol-involved traffic deaths than any other holiday weekend.

Last year's Memorial Day weekend was the deadliest since 1987, with four crashes killing eight people on Oregon highways. Four of those deaths were in Springfield, as a drunken driver died in a head-on collision that also killed a mother, her 4-year-old child and the child's father.

In other accidents, a motorcyclist lost his life near Bend, a 19-year-old Tigard woman died after she was ejected from a convertible, and a driver struck and killed two bicyclists south of Forest Grove.

In 2005, seven people died in Oregon traffic accidents during the Memorial Day weekend.

In Florence, local and state police will have extra patrols beginning Friday, targeting speeders, people not wearing seat belts and those driving under the influence on the way to and from the coast.

"We know that this weekend is going to be a well-traveled holiday weekend, and we know that the weather's going to be nice," state police Lt. Mike Bloom said. "We're doing a number of things, including seat belt safety blitz. During the later hours, we'll be looking for intoxicated drivers."

Oregon has one of the highest percentages of seat belt use in the country, but it's not 100 percent. "If everyone in Oregon buckled up last year, about 75 lives could have been saved," said Carla Levinski, an ODOT manager.

During last year's Memorial Day weekend, extra patrols helped state police arrest 81 drivers for driving under the influence of intoxicants, issue more than 1,600 speed-related citations and 250 safety restraint-related citations, help nearly 450 disabled motorists and respond to nearly 200 traffic crashes.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com