Eugene looks into rise of pedestrian-involved crashes in Oregon

Eugene is working toward eliminating all deaths and serious injuries on roadways, using a framework called Vision Zero.

Posted: Jul 23, 2018 2:17 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Pedestrian-involved crashes are on the rise on Oregon roads.

In 2013, there were 850 pedestrian crashes on Oregon roads, according to crash statistics from ODOT. Over the years, that number has steadily increased, and in 2016, there were 1,078 pedestrian crashes.

With more crashes, there are also more fatalities and serious injuries. In 2013, there were a combined total of 156 fatalities and injuries. In 2016, there were 215.

It’s something some residents know all too well.

Marina Hajek lost her 10-year-old son, Vaclav Hajek, who was killed by a car when he was crossing Bailey Hill Road in Eugene.

"I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was in shock," Hajek said.

Earlier this month, Ross DeLong was hit on a crosswalk on 11th Avenue and Chambers Street in Eugene.

He said he had the right of way and looked before he crossed. He said the truck that hit him came out of nowhere.

"In that moment, I thought I was going to die," DeLong said.

It’s a problem the city of Eugene has taken notice of. In Eugene, 36 percent of all crashes involve pedestrians.

Now, the city is working toward eliminating all deaths and serious injuries on the roadways, using a framework called Vision Zero. It was a goal the city adopted back in 2015, and since then, city staff and community members have been working toward developing an action plan. That plan includes identifying why and where crashes often happen and how to prevent them. It could include changes to traffic signals, road stripping, street crossings and even how some roads and intersections are designed -- all to minimize crashes and make pedestrians safer.

“My goal is to implement the plan,” said Matt Rodrigues, a traffic engineer for the city of Eugene. ”I really want to see safety improve. I want to see a continual improvement and moving toward zero.”

City officials expect to adopt the action plan by the end of this year.

"[Vaclav] would be happy to know that his friends didn't have to take the chance he took when crossing the street,” Hajek said. “To me, through these years, we cannot wait for another child to die in order to make changes."

Hajek has been part of the task force working with the city to develop Vision Zero. She said it's a way her son's voice is still being heard and is making a difference.

Officials said there are many reasons why these crashes happen, including people driving distracted, impaired or even too fast. Rodrigues said with a better economy, more people tend to travel. With more people on the roadways, accidents could happen more often.

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