Silverton Road: 10 crashes for month of July; 10 for the entire year of 2013

August 2016 Posted in News
Fire crews work to extricate victims of the July 19, 6:30 a.m. crash on Silverton Road. Photo by Ed Grambusch

Fire crews work to extricate victims of the July 19, 6:30 a.m. crash on Silverton Road. Photo by Ed Grambusch

By Kristine Thomas

When Silverton Fire District Public Information Officer and Capt. Ed Grambusch learns there is another crash on Silverton Road, his first thought is an unpleasant one.

He ponders “How many patients are we going to have? Are we going to have to extricate these patients from the vehicles?”

While Silverton Road is the quickest and most direct route to Salem, it also has a reputation for being dangerous to drive. Talk with your friends. You may be surprised to learn how many avoid driving on it. There are alternative routes to arrive in Salem and other destinations.

Yet both Grambusch and Marion County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chris Baldridge say the road is not the problem. The road is  not to be blamed for the accidents on it.

Top 10 driver errors
1. Failure to avoid a stopped
or parked vehicle ahead
2. Failure to yield right-of-way
3. Failure to stay on the road
4. Failure to maintain lane
5. Driving too fast for road
and weather conditions
6. Inattention
7. Following too close
8. Improper lane changes
9. Left turn in front of
on-coming traffic
10. Failure to decrease
speed for slow moving vehicle

“Our roads are not dangerous if people abide by the rules of the road,” Baldridge said. “Each and every crash is preventable if we follow the rules.”

Speeding, passing in unauthorized or unsafe areas, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and being distracted all cause crashes, Baldridge and Grambusch said in separate interviews.

“Too many lives are taken and too many people are injured in motor vehicle crashes,” Grambusch said, emphasizing they are preventable.

According to data obtained from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, on the stretch of Silverton Road from the Silverton city limits to Cordon Road there were 10 crashes in 2013; 22 in 2014 and 31 in 2015. From Jan. 1 to July 31, 2016, there have been 27, with 10 in July alone.

Baldridge said from Jan. 1, 2013 to July 31, 2016, the sheriff’s office has issued 615 citations over that same stretch of Silverton Road. The majority were for travelling 11 to 20 mph above speed limit.

“Silverton Road is the most heavily traveled road in Marion County,” he said.

Grambusch added both highways 213 and 214 also have bad crashes.

“However, from my experience there are far more crashes on Hwy 213 and they seem to be more serious in nature,” Grambusch said. “Hands down, I have responded to a lot more fatal accidents on Hwy 213.”

Crashes, not accidents 

Grambusch said most motor vehicle collisions should not be labeled as accidents, but instead as crashes.

“Because most crashes are the result of human errors, they should not be considered as ‘accidents,’” Grambusch said.

The Silverton Fire District serves about 6 miles of Silverton Road, starting at the Silverton city limits and ending near 76th Avenue NE.

Because Silverton Road is a high speed road of 55 mph and above, Grambusch said when a crash occurs there is a greater possibility of heavily damaged vehicles, often with multiple occupants.

On July 19, Grambusch and his fellow firefighters responded to a two-vehicle crash at 6:30 a.m. in the 12000 block of Silverton Road. The driver of one vehicle was arrested on charges of driving under the influence. The road was closed for three hours.

The driver of the vehicle heading toward Silverton crossed the lane and struck a westbound car. The driver and passenger in the westbound car had to be extricated from their vehicle. Both were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries.

The driver of the eastbound car was not injured. He arrested for DUII and two counts of assault III. According to the police report his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit.

Heavily damaged vehicles with occupants trapped inside present the need for rapid extrication, Grambusch said.

“We were able to extricate occupants from both cars in an astounding 22 minutes, which is absolutely great. The extrication included prying doors apart and taking the top completely off one of the cars to get the patients out,” Grambusch said.

While the crew’s preformace was excellent, the real story was “the crash was completely preventable.”

Remember the goal

Baldridge said the goal of every driver should be to get to their destination safely and then return to their loved ones.

“I encourage people to be patient when driving and only pass when it is safe and necessary,” Baldridge said.

Here’s is something Grambusch said he wants drivers to ponder. It is only 10 miles from the Silverton City limits to Cordon Road.

“Going fast really does not save you a lot of time,” he said. “And anytime you pass someone, going eastbound or westbound, the person you pass just ends up directly behind you at Cordon Road or Howell Prairie Road or the Silverton city limits which means that no time was saved…there is no benefit from passing and going fast.”

Why crashes happen

Whether responding to a crash on Hwy 213 or 214 or Silverton Road or in town, Grambusch said the reason why it happens is almost always an easy question to answer.

Human error, he said.

“On calls that I have been on, every fatal crash and about 95 percent of the injury-only crashes are caused by human error; going too fast, driving impaired, following too close, not obeying traffic control devices, distracted driving, cell phones, radio, you name it,” Grambusch said.

Silverton Police Chief Jeff Fossholm said the yearly increase in the higher number of accidents correlates to the increase in traffic or total number of vehicles using Silverton Road.

“This increase probably has to do with fact that during the last several years Silverton’s population has been steadily increasing,” Fossholm said. “Couple that with the fact that most Silverton residents still must drive to Salem for specific services or retail establishments which are not available here in town. Likewise, Silverton has become a popular place for those in Salem to come an enjoy our great restaurants and downtown core area.”

While Silverton Road is posted at 55 mph, Fossholm said there are drivers who go 40 or 45 mph. Going that slowly can be hazardous, too, he said. It causes the flow of traffic to build up.

“Which then leads to passing when it’s not safe to do so or tailgating,” Fossholm said.

“In our hustle and bustle lives, we also have those who are driving too fast for conditions or being aggressive drivers and their actions cause them to take risks beyond their driving or the vehicle’s ability, which also places other drivers in jeopardy.”

Fossholm said drivers using Silverton Road need to be aware of the high number of accidents occurring there, and pay attention to their own driving skills, drive defensively, and be prepared for someone who might not be following the rules of the road.

Slow down, drive defensively

Grambusch said a lot of crashes can be avoided by doing these two simple things: slow down and drive defensively.

He used a little math to make his point about going the speed limit on Silverton Road from Silverton to Cordon Road.

“Not accounting for the stop at Howell Prairie Road, this trip takes approximately 11 minutes at 55 mph,” Grambusch said. “Take the same example and exceed the speed limit to 65 mph, your trip would take 9 minutes and 15 seconds.”

Is 1 minute and 45 seconds really worth the risk that this increased speed creates, Grambusch asks?

“Not to mention that everyone catches up with each other anyway,” he said.

“It just really does not make any sense to speed. As far as driving defensive, you need to protect yourself from those who do not have as much regard for your safety as you do.

“If everyone drove in a defensive manner, the crash rate would decrease significantly.”

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