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ODOT official says Oregon drivers need to adapt quickly to early and intense winter conditions

ODOT_Salem_Jan21.jpg
Oregon Dept. of Transportation
Winter traffic in Salem, 2021. Roads that are covered in partially-melted snow can freeze into spans of black ice, increasing the need for caution.

Winter conditions have taken some drivers off guard, already. A transportation official is sharing motorist basics to avoid icy accidents.

Thursday night, police and emergency personnel from Eugene and Springfield responded to a multi-car pileup on Franklin Boulevard, under I-5. Authorities noted that snowmelt during the day refroze after sunset, creating black ice.

Angela Beers-Seydel of the Oregon Department of Transportation told KLCC that responsible winter driving is a matter of “space and grace.”

“Space. Make sure you’re giving at least three car lengths between you and any other vehicle on the road,” she explained.

“Grace? Expect the unexpected. Be really aware of what everyone around you is doing, and understand that they may be in a situation they’re not familiar with either.”

At least nine cars were in the Franklin Boulevard pile-up, with some vehicles departed ahead of police arrival. The roadway was reopened after two hours.

Beers-Seydels said keeping things safe is a partnership. She said recently, she’s seen some drivers already taking risks.

ODOT_Jan22_DmndLake.jpg
Oregon Dept. of Transportation
An ODOT snowplow leads traffic out of the Diamond Lake area in January 2022.

“One of things that was really concerning, was that people were tailgating our equipment. They were following way too closely. And that’s dangerous for everyone. They’re tailgating the de-icing trucks, they’re tailgating the sanding trucks, they’re tailgating the plows.”

Accidents have happened between ODOT and civilian vehicles in past years, some fatal.

Another tip from Beers-Seydel: look at existing conditions on roads and highways across the state through TripCheck.com. Web cams are posted on many major thoroughfares and passes, as well as construction and accident updates.

The winter season is looking to be a "La Niña” weather event, meaning it’ll be cold, wet, and heavy through February for much of Oregon.

©2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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