Car Safety in Oregon

Oregon is only one of three contiguous states to have a Pacific Ocean view. The state is one of the top ten largest in the US but has a population that puts it in the bottom half of all states, barely. Its density is also in the bottom half, although the Willamette Valley is home to 8 of the state’s 10 largest cities, making it a densely populated region of the state, with many other very rural areas. With 8 very distinct and different geological zones in Oregon, drivers in the state need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Mountains, Oceans, Rivers, Forests and Desert

While not the absolute most diverse state, with 8 geologic zones it does offer a wide range of terrain and weather aspects for drivers to deal with. From the Rain Forest of the Coastal region in Oregon to the High Desert in the southeast, with one of the largest rivers in the US, the Columbia River and plenty of forests through the center and eastern portions of the state it offers a lot of potential hazards.

One of the largest dangers is the number of rural and remote areas in Oregon. Whereby most of the population of the state lives in a corridor called the Willamette Valley with a significant portion also living along the coastal region. However, the vast majority of the center of the state to the east is very sparely populated in some areas as little as less than 1 person per square mile of land.

Driving in a state with mountain ranges, vast forests and high desert provides ample opportunities for mishaps. If you are planning trips into these areas of the state, be sure to pack the necessary emergency equipment for the area you are visiting. Subarctic climates in the higher elevations can offer snow and colder temperatures than the average in Oregon, while the high desert can be punishingly hot during the day with precipitous drops in temperature at night. With only two major Interstate highways, I-5 and I-84, through the western populous zone and the northern border of the state, the majority of the state does not have large highways. US State highways and Oregon State highways offer roads in the less densely populated areas and may not always be in the best state of repair.

The climate of Oregon is surprisingly mild for its latitude, mainly because of the influence of the Pacific Ocean in moderating its temperature. West of the Cascade mountain range, where 70% of the population lives, this is true. However, the state does experience a Steppe climate, a subarctic climate in higher elevations, semi-arid climate in the High Desert and a Mediterranean climate in the southwest. These specific climate zones may make certain driving situations dangerous if you are not prepared.

No Fault-Fault Hybrid Insurance System

Probably one of the most distinct states when it comes to auto insurance legislation, Oregon is a hybrid between an ‘at fault’ and a “no fault” system. Drivers are required to have not only the typical liability insurance in an at fault system but they are also required to have Personal Injury Protection insurance, the hallmark of a no fault system. However, even if victims in an accident can rely on their PIP insurance coverage, before it runs out, they can make a claim or litigate the at fault party allowing anyone involved in these accidents to still recover damages. These damage awards can help keep their own insurance premiums low or help ‘top up’ their insurance coverage through extra claims or lawsuit awards.

Having insurance is mandatory in the state although almost 10% of drivers are uninsured. As a driver you need to be aware of this issue. The state also mandates Uninsured coverage, which benefits your overall financial safety ensuring that even when another driver is uninsured you are covered.

Average, but Tough DUI Penalties

Across the US, most states have toughened their penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Most states have significant penalties in place and Oregon is no different. Although a first time DUI in the state may result in lesser penalties compared to other states with Oregon’s DUI Diversion Program, second and subsequent offense penalties get very aggressive including mandatory jail time, license suspension, alcohol or drug treatment programs, monetary fines and ignition lock devices.

The best way to avoid these harsh penalties in any state is to avoid drinking and driving under any situation. It is often better to take a cab and leave your car than not be able to drive it again for a year.

Unique Again

Oregon is unique in how they treat traffic violations as well. Although a majority of states track driving records through a demerit system of points, Oregon simply track your number of infractions, and hand out penalties. This can be both good and bad for drivers. If you get minor infractions, you could be in the same boat as a person with the same number of infractions but are considered worst infractions. Any 3 combination of tickets and accidents within 18 months results in an automatic 30 day restricted license with 4 tickets and/or 3 accidents in 24 months resulting in a 30 day license suspension. Their system is somewhat lax compared to many other states.


Did You Know That…

1. Oregon is home to the largest living organism on earth, the “Humongous Fungus.”

2. Over 70% of the population of Oregon lives in Willamette Valley.

3. A full unrestricted license is available to 17 years olds through the GDL program.

4. It has more ghost towns than any other state with over 60.

5. With a Learner Permit you are expected to complete 100 behind the wheel supervised hours of driving.

6. Oregon has the deepest lake, Crater Lake at 1943 feet deep.

7. It is unique with a Hybrid No Fault-At Fault insurance system.

8. The state has more Craft Breweries per capita than any other state.

9. You could be penalized with a restricted license with just 3 minor speeding tickets.

10. A 3rd or subsequent DUI in Oregon results in a Class C felony charge.

Read also:

Car Insurance in Oregon
Driving Schools in Oregon
Car Accident Attorneys in Oregon