As the people of Corvallis begin to poke their heads out into the world again, we thought it was a good time to warn everyone about their driving.
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, in 2019 there were a total of 3,295,265 driver’s license holders among 4,217,737 Oregonians, which amounts to approximately 78% of the population. The number of driver’s licenses has been steadily growing over the years, as has the total population. This 78% represents nearly everyone 15 or older in Oregon.
So how are all of these people doing with driving? Looking at data from Benton County and the state of Oregon, with help from the Oregon Department of Transportation, the United States Census, and the Corvallis Police Department, we did the math.
In 2015-2020, slightly fewer women received an Oregon driver’s license than men.
The 2019 census estimated the population in Benton County at 93,053. There were 66,682 driver’s licenses held in that year. The increase in valid driver’s license numbers in Benton County from 2015 to 2019 (3.5%) lags the state increase (5.3%).
People 25-29 years-old account for a significant portion of the population among drivers in Benton County.
Corvallis Drivers Getting Tickets
From 2015-2020, there were 22,930 traffic citations issued in the city of Corvallis. According to Corvallis Police Department data, the highest number of tickets in any year tend to be issued to people between 18-21 years old. Disregarding the small population with missing age data, the following conclusions can be made.
Referencing the distribution of driver’s licenses in Benton County and tickets in Corvallis, we can see a disproportionately small number of citations among drivers 40-44 years old and 70-79 years old.
Referencing both age-based graphs: distribution of driver’s licenses in Benton County and distribution of citations in Corvallis, the following conclusions can be made:Even though the 25-29 years old group holds more driver’s licenses than any other, they have not received the most citations. Four groups representing ages: 18-21 and 40-54 (spanning three age groups) have nearly equal numbers of driver licenses per group. Yet, the 18-21 group holds about 25% more citations than the three others combined. The older the driver group, the fewer citations received.
The number of traffic citations per year in Corvallis shows a decreasing trend since 2016.
The records also show fewer tickets issued to female drivers than to male drivers in any given year. The gap by gender is the narrowest in the year 2018 with 42% women and 52% men – a gap of only 10%.
In Corvallis, citations by month don’t show obvious trends, although October tends to have the second highest numbers overall, while the years 2015-2016 had the highest overall number of citations.
The numbers of citations by day of the week shows a marked difference. There is a significant increase on Wednesdays in Corvallis, while the weekends see the lowest numbers of traffic issues.
On average, a Corvallis driver is three times more likely to break a traffic law on a Wednesday than on a Saturday or Sunday. A closer look at year-to-year citations confirms the trend.
Interestingly, Thursdays in 2017 and 2018 were particularly low, but in 2018 the difference was made up in tickets issued on Tuesdays. There is a theory that the most stressful time of the week for working people is Tuesday at 11:45 a.m.
While Wednesday have a decisive peak and weekends are the lowest ebb, in most cases drivers receive traffic citations in the afternoon.
CPD Talks Tickets
CPD Media Contact Lieutenant Ryan Eaton, who provided the data for this article, said that the pattern of Wednesdays as days with most citations could be due to availability of officers to patrol the streets. Overlapping shifts, when the officers work four ten-hour days, could be one of those reasons. Officers on motorcycles, specifically designated to patrol the streets, do not work during the weekend. Fluctuations in available officers to patrol is certainly a contributing factor to the patterns.
There is also a significant variation in the yearly citation number.
2019 saw fewer than half as many tickets issued than 2015 or 2016. In fact, since 2017 there were fewer citations in Corvallis than in previous years. When asked about this notable disparity, Eaton points to insufficient staffing and retirement.
“For the years leading up to 2019, we were experiencing higher call volumes due to increases in the city population. We had not realized a staffing increase since the mid ‘90s and our officers were operating in almost a completely reactionary role where they would go call to call [without] time in between for proactive or community policing activities,” Eaton said. “This included traffic enforcement. As such we saw a decrease in not only traffic stops, but in the number of citations written. With the passing of the Public Safety Fee, the department was able to hire additional police officers and somewhat mitigate some of those challenges we were facing.”
Training of newly hired officers is another factor.
“In regards to the hiring of officers, we were not allowed to ‘over hire’ or otherwise exceed our budgeted and allotted ‘Full Time Employees.’ This meant that even though we had anticipated vacancies due to retirements or other planned separations, we could not hire a replacement for the employee until they actually left the City,” Eaton said. “It takes close to a year or more to fully train an officer to ‘solo’ status. So, if we lost two employees to retirements, we effectively would go a year without realizing replacements for them. These circumstances tend to keep us in a perpetual game of ‘catch up.’”
While citations for unsafe driving or other traffic violations depend on police availability in the area, after a collision even officers who are assigned to non-traffic related tasks can respond if called upon. Between 2015 and 2020 there were 2,263 reported collisions in Corvallis.
With the exception of 2019, the data shows a downward trend since 2016.
Decisively, October seems to be the month of the most collisions reported. From April to October, there is the greatest variation in collision number from year to year.
Much like in the case of citations, there have been more collisions noted in the afternoon hours. In 2019, when the gap between AM and PM collisions was the closest, afternoon collisions accounted for only 65.1%. While in 2017, 74.4% of collisions occurred after noon.
While Wednesday is the day for most traffic citations, Friday is the day for most collisions; Friday afternoon especially.
CPD provided records of the collisions of which they were informed. Eaton said that “this data includes incidents where emergency services may not have responded” – such as a “minor crash where no one was hurt, and the involved parties simply exchanged information and were able to drive away from the scene.”
Again, much like citation numbers, the weekend shows fewer collisions, less than half of Friday’s total.
Collisions with Injuries or Fatalities
Fatalities due to a car wreck have been thankfully rare between 2015-2020. In the past two years, none were reported. 2017 had the highest number of fatalities with two. One fatality resulted from collisions in 2015, 2016, and 2018.
In any given year, there are fewer collisions that result in injury to a person than non-injury collisions. In 2015, the largest percent of collisions resulted in injury with 43%, while in 2020 only 6% of all collisions resulted in injury.
“Hit and run” collisions are known to the Police as “Fail to Perform Duties” (FTPD) events. The exact numbers of FTPD for the period of 2015-2018 is used for this analysis, however we were unable to obtain numbers past June of 2019.
There were six reported “hit-and-run” events up to the end of June of 2019. Of the 17 injury causing collisions in the second half of 2019, it is estimated that two were FTPD events. Proportionally, in 2019 there were more FTPD events among injury causing collisions than in previous years.
The numbers of FTPD collisions in 2020 were not available at the time this article was written.
Intersections prone to collisions
At the end of each year, CPD identifies intersections with the most collisions.
In 2018, the intersections with the most traffic collisions were:
NE Highway 99W and NW Circle Blvd – 11 incidents
SW Philomath Blvd and SW 35TH St – 9 incidents
NW Van Buren Ave and NW 9TH St – 9 incidents
NW Kings Blvd and NW Harrison Blvd – 8 incidents
NW 9TH St and NW Harrison Blvd – 8 incidents
NW Kings Blvd and NW Garfield Ave – 7 incidents
SW 15TH St and SW Philomath Blvd – 7 incidents
NW 9TH St and NW Buchanan Ave – 6 incidents
SW 35TH St and SW Western Blvd – 6 incidents
NW 3RD St and NW Van Buren Ave – 6 incidents
In 2019, the intersections with the most traffic collisions were:
NW 9TH St and NW CIRCLE Blvd – 11 incidents
NW 3RD St and NW Harrison Blvd – 9 incidents
NW 14TH St and NW Monroe Ave – 8 incidents
NW 3RD St and NW Van Buren Ave – 7 incidents
NW 5TH St and NW Harrison Blvd – 7 incidents
NW 9TH St and NW Van Buren Ave – 7 incidents
NW 9TH St and NW Grant Ave – 7 incidents
NW Van Buren Ave and NW 1ST St – 6 incidents
SW 4TH St and SW Western Blvd – 5 incidents
SW Philomath Blvd and SW 53RD St – 5 incidents
In 2020 the intersections with the most traffic collisions were:
NW 9TH St and NW Circle Blvd – 11 incidents
NW Highland Dr and NW Circle Blvd – 8 incidents
NE Circle Blvd and NE Hwy 99W – 8 incidents
NW 9TH St and NW Van Buren Ave – 7 incidents
SW Philomath Blvd and SW 53RD St – 6 incidents
NW 23RD St and NW Harrison Blvd – 6 incidents
NW 3RD St and NW Harrison Blvd – 6 incidents
NE Conifer Blvd and NE Hwy 99W – 5 incidents
SW 4TH St and SW Western Blvd – 5 incidents
NW Walnut Blvd and NW 9TH St – 5 incidents
Repeatedly, Corvallis drivers in the age bracket 40-44 receive the fewest number of citations, while those 18-21 receive the most. Women receive fewer licenses and fewer citations than men. Drivers tend to receive more citations and cause more collisions after noon in nearly every day of the week. The most collisions occur on Friday afternoons.
There are fewer citations written during the weekend, and the most in the middle of the week. October seems to be the month for collisions and citations. The number of fatalities per year is thankfully low. However the number of injury-causing collisions and “Hit-and-Run” collisions seems to have grown.
And the roads to be most careful on are Circle Blvd, Harrison Blvd, and Van Buren St.
Conclusions about driver’s behavior cannot be drawn unequivocally. With his background in psychology, Eaton is cautious to not assume that any adherence to patterns explains people’s mode of driving. His comments on the citation and collision data acknowledge unpredictability and a great variation in driver behavior.
Human behavior is a sum of a multitude of factors, thus the difficulty in putting in place a solid plan for safer roads.