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Portland pedestrian deaths have reached a 70-year high, police say

The city of Portland has already had more than 60 people die in traffic crashes this year, according to numbers from the Portland Police Bureau.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Since the beginning of the year, at least 31 pedestrians have died on Portland streets after being hit by a vehicle, according to Portland police. That number ties death tolls last seen in 1952 and 1950.

"It is clear, that despite advances in technology, infrastructure, education and awareness, we are still not solving the problem and our traffic fatalities are at epidemic levels," said David Baer, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau's Major Crash Team.

One of the latest pedestrian deaths was Sunday night on North Columbia Boulevard and North Interstate Place in the Kenton neighborhood. Police said a man was hit by a car and was dead when officers got to the scene.

One man who works in the area and frequently walks that route said he's seen how dangerous it can be.

"Everybody flies through here so fast," said Joe. "It's ridiculous. People should use more caution."

In 2021, 63 people died in traffic crashes in Portland, 27 of whom were pedestrians, according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. This was the highest number of traffic deaths since 1990.

According to Portland police numbers so far this year, 66 people have been killed in traffic crashes. There were 67 people killed in crashes throughout 2021 by PPB's numbers, which was a 35-year high.

PBOT is also tracking traffic deaths this year, but they do not count cases that police conclude to be the result of suicide, resulting in slightly different numbers between the two agencies.

Hannah Schafer with PBOT said some of the biggest factors in these crashes are speed and impairment. Most of the crashes are also in high-crash corridors. North Columbia Boulevard, where the man was killed Sunday night, is one of them. 

"On this date last year, we were at 61 fatalities for the year. This year we are at 60, so we are on track at this point, which is of course not good news," Schafer said.

Schafer said PBOT is dedicating the majority of resources to implementing safety improvements in those problem areas.

"Broader investments and transforming and changing roadways, whether it's through changing the actual number of travel lanes and creating more space and adding additional crosswalks," Schafer said. 

Schafer is calling on the community to be vigilant really watch their speed limits. 

"There's still a lot of work for us to do at PBOT to make our streets safer but we need partners in this and we need Portlanders to step up and do what they can to make our streets safer," Schafer said.

On Monday, Portland police arrested a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence after he crashed into a man working on his disabled vehicle on Marquam Bridge. The victim was last reported to be in "grave condition."

Later that day, just before 6:30 p.m., Portland police responded to a crash involving a pedestrian on NE Sandy Boulevard near Argay City Park. They arrived to find a man suffering from life-threatening injuries. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The driver of the vehicle in the NE Sandy crash stayed at the scene, PPB said. The Major Crash Team took over the investigation and NE Sandy was shut down during the investigation between NE 141st and NE 147th Avenue.

This crash means that Portland's number of fatal pedestrian crashes rose to at least 32 by the end of the day, beating those previous numbers from the 1950s. According to PPB, the next highest number was in 1948, when the city saw 34 pedestrian deaths.

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