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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Measure Would Take 'Vision Zero' Concept Statewide

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Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would push the state toward adopting a traffic safety program that has the goal of eventually zeroing out all traffic fatalities.

The bill would create a task force to examine the state's traffic safety strategies. An ODOT administrator testified that the task force may duplicate work already being undertaken by the agency.

Traffic deaths in Oregon were on the decline for a decade, but a sharp increase in the past two years has nearly wiped out those gains. A new study released by AAA shows that a very high percentage of younger drivers has admitted to using their smart phones for texting or reading social media while driving.

Members of the House Transportation Committee heard story after story from people who've lost loved ones in traffic crashes. Susan Kubota's niece, Tracey Sparling, was killed while riding her bike in Portland nearly a decade ago.

Kubota wants the state to adopt the goals behind "Vision Zero." It’s a safety program embraced by many cities, including Portland, with the aim to eliminate all traffic fatalities.

"Vision Zero is a concept that traffic crashes are preventable and it is the responsibility of government to actively protect citizens on streets and sidewalks,” Kubota said.

A separate bill under consideration in Salem would clarify that the state's law banning the use of cell phones to make voice calls or text would also apply to using the device for any purpose while behind the wheel.