EUGENE, Ore. -- A drop in drivers hitting the roads during the pandemic has resulted in fewer fatal crashes, Oregon Department of Transportation officials say.
ODOT spokeswoman Angela Beers Seydel said preliminary data shows an almost 37% decrease in the number of fatal crashes across the state compared to 2019. She said from April 1 to the middle of the month in 2019, Oregon saw 26 fatal crashes. During that same time this year, there has only been only 10.
She said the drop is a direct link to Gov. Kate Brown's "Stay Home, Save Lives" executive order. But she said some drivers have used the excuse of open roads to ignore the speed limit.
"We're getting reports from folks in our work zones that they're very concerned and are looking at reaching out to our local law enforcement to help with enforcement in those work zones a little more than they do now," Beers Seydel said.
Beers Seydel said they are taking advantage of the fewer cars on the road to do more work on projects. They are doing longer lane closures at night and closing down lanes during the day when they normally wouldn't on some projects.
Meanwhile, many insurance companies are giving rebates and credits to their customers because of the reduced risk of crashes. A spokesperson for Allstate Insurance said they are giving their customers 15% cash back on their premiums for April and May.
Driver Annie Smith said she's found herself driving less while following the stay-at-home order.
"Who wouldn't like a little bit of extra cash?" Smith said. "Lucky we are people who are retired so we don't have the same impact, but my friend over here she has her own business, and it's really impacted her."
Marie Dodds, with AAA Oregon, said the pandemic could impact summer travel as well. She said they would normally be getting ready to start their Memorial Day travel survey but said those plans are on hold with many states having stay-at-home orders.
"But I would imagine that we are going to see very dramatically low travel rates this summer compared to last summer," Dodds said.
Last year 557,000 people traveled across Oregon over the Memorial Day weekend. The highest volume since 2005, according to AAA.