Nearly 200 people killed in Portland traffic crashes since 2021, reports says

By Bryce Dole (OPB )
April 18, 2024 11:03 p.m.
FILE - An alleged DUI driver collided head-on with a person in another vehicle on Northeast Glisan Street near 152nd Avenue in December 2021, resulting in serious injuries.

FILE - An alleged DUI driver collided head-on with a person in another vehicle on Northeast Glisan Street near 152nd Avenue in December 2021, resulting in serious injuries.

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Since 2021, 196 people have died in traffic crashes in Portland, a new report says.


Last year’s total — 69 — was the highest death toll in at least three decades. That tops the previous high set in 2021, when 64 deaths were reported, according to the annual report on traffic fatalities from the Portland Bureau of Transportation released this week.

“Every life lost is a tragedy that resonates through our community, underscoring my commitment to making Portland’s roads safer for everyone,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a Tuesday news release.

The rise in deaths comes despite the Portland City Council adopting the aspirational goal in 2016 of Vision Zero, a global movement to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries on urban roads. Originally, city officials had set the goal of doing this by 2025, but they walked this back years ago as crashes surged during the pandemic, according to Dylan Rivera, a bureau spokesman.

It also comes as city officials have “seen an increase in egregious travel behaviors among people using the streets” since the pandemic began in 2020, reflecting nationwide trends, according to a news release from the bureau.

“We can see that things are going in the wrong direction,” Dana Dickman, the traffic safety section manager at Portland Bureau of Transportation, said in a Portland City Council meeting Wednesday.


Related: Oregon data shows traffic deaths on the rise across the state

Still, Dickman said that the Vision Zero initiative is working, noting that investments in some of the city’s high-crash corridors have led to reduced speeding and crashes on the city’s most dangerous roads.

“Despite the challenges that lie ahead, our dedication to achieving Vision Zero remains unwavering,” Wheeler said in Wednesday’s council meeting.

More than half of last year’s deaths — 40 — involved people speeding, the report said. The city saw deaths tied to street racing, drivers speeding away from crime scenes, drunken driving and other “unusual and flagrant” behaviors, the bureau said.

And more pedestrians are dying than previous years. From 2018 to 2020, about 16 pedestrians died each year. For the past three years, that number has been 26.

The report pointed to social struggles like homelessness, addiction, mental illness and gun violence as driving the increase in deadly crashes.

Related: Traffic deaths are a ‘significant public health threat,’ Multnomah County report says

People experiencing homelessness made up less than 1% of Multnomah County’s population in 2023 but 19% of people killed in car crashes. Half of the pedestrians killed in 2023 were homeless, with 12 out of 24.

City leaders said the report highlighted the need to work together and invest in traffic safety.

The bureau said city officials are working to make streets safer by reducing speeds, redesigning roads, improving lighting, striping and signs, and installing traffic safety cameras at intersections along streets with a high number of crashes.