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Eugene, Springfield see rise in vehicle-pedestrian crashes

(NBC 16 image)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Monday morning's crash on Gateway was one of four since Friday afternoon around Eugene and Springfield.

On Saturday morning Springfield Police responded to an incident off Harlow Road. In that crash, the pedestrian was cited for not using a crosswalk.

According to the police log, there were also vehicle-pedestrian crashes on Highway 99 and off 11th Avenue in Eugene.

Officials from both Springfield and Eugene say distractions are a big factor, and these types of accidents are getting much worse.

"We see this almost every week, unfortunately; there are crashes," said Larisa Varela with City of Eugene’s Vision Zero.

Pedestrian safety is a big issue for the City of Eugene.

"The City is concerned about transportation safety," she said, and that’s why Eugene funded Vision Zero in 2015.

The program’s goal is to eliminate transportation casualties by the year 2035.

"One of the great things about Vision Zero is it's a very data-driven process," she explained, and the data doesn’t lie; Varela says vehicle-pedestrian crashes have been a problem.

She says on average, Eugene sees three deaths a year due to these crashes and five life-changing injuries.

"Injuries that are causing people to be paralyzed, losing a limb, really serious injuries, so it does happen in our community and its best to be really safe and protect yourself."

The situation isn’t any better in Springfield.

"It’s been an ongoing situation in Springfield and in Oregon," said Springfield Police Officer Mike Massey.

Massey says since he began working for Springfield PD 13 years ago, the situation has gotten worse.

"You can’t just step out in traffic," he said, adding it’s a common misconception that pedestrians don’t have to look both ways. It’s a misconception he says needs to be broken.

“There’s legal parameters the pedestrian has to take to,” he said, “they think sometimes using a crosswalk they are in a safety bubble. That’s usually the problem; they are not being alert as well."

Regardless of the cause of crashes, Massey says Springfield PD’s traffic unit is focused on spreading awareness of the issue.

"We are just trying to make people more aware of it to limit more situations that happen,” he said. “We can only help them so much, or educate so much."

Officer Massey said crashes in Springfield prompted the Oregon Department of Transportation to give a grant to the city to educate the public about using crosswalks.

Eugene's Vision Zero says it will have an operational website on Wednesday that will show you where crashes occur in the city.

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