FAQ - Traffic Safety

Traffic Safety

How can I get a speed zone changed?

Some speeds are set by Oregon Revised Statutes and can only be changed by legislation. Examples of statutory speeds are 55 mph basic rule on most rural and unposted roadways, 25 mph on residential streets, or 20 mph in business districts. To change a speed limit not designated by state statute a traffic engineering investigation must be performed. Citizens may request the city or county change a posted speed.

If the city or county agrees that the speed for a particular street or highway should be changed, it can make a request to ODOT’s Traffic-Roadway Section for a review and investigation. The Region traffic engineering staff conducts the investigation using procedures in accordance with nationally accepted traffic engineering standards. Factors taken into consideration are accident history, roadside culture, traffic volumes, and roadway alignment, width and surface.

A major factor in establishing speed zones is consideration of the 85th percentile speed. This is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling. This is used as an indication of the speed most drivers feel is reasonable and safe.

When the investigation is complete, a report with photographs detailing the existing conditions and proposed changes is prepared. The report is sent to the city or county for review. If the city or county agrees with the recommendation, the new speed zone is established.

If ODOT and the local road authority cannot reach agreement on the setting of a speed zone, the speed zone request is referred to the Speed Zone Review Panel. The panel is comprised of representatives of the Oregon Transportation Safety Committee, the Oregon State Police, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Department of Transportation. The panel hears ODOT’s recommendations and testimony from the local road authority and makes the final decision. It is the responsibility of the road authority to install new speed zone signs.

How do I get a traffic signal installed?

A. Traffic signals are installed based on intersection safety rankings. Additional investigation for a specific concern can be requested using our online service request form.

How long does my child need to be in a car seat?

Child Restraint Law: Child passengers must be restrained in approved child safety seats until they weigh 40 pounds. Infants must ride rear facing until they reach both one year of age AND 20 pounds.

Booster Seat Law: Children over 40 pounds OR who have reached the upper weight limit of their car seat's harness system, must use a booster seat until they are 4'9" tall OR age 8. The booster seat requirement does not apply when the rear seat of the vehicle is equipped only with lap belts, provided the child is secured by the lap belt.

Safety Belts: A child taller than 4'9" OR age 8 or older must be properly secured with the vehicle's safety belt. The child is properly secured if the lap belt is positioned low across the thighs and the shoulder belt is positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck.

Failure to properly use safety belts or child restraints is a Class D traffic violation with a $110.00 fine - ORS 811.210 and ORS 815.055; effective January 1, 2012.

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Is it legal for people to walk down the rural roads in Washington County that do not have sidewalks and force traffic to stop and go around them?

Yes, it is legal for pedestrians to walk on rural roads, however, they are required by law to yield to vehicles. You'll find the information you're looking for on the State of Oregon's Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Laws and Regulations page at: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/laws_regs.shtml

Enforcement of vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian laws on rural Washington County roads is the responsibility of the Sheriff's Office. You can submit an online Traffic Complaint form at: http://www.co.washington.or.us/Sheriff/FightingCrime/Patrols/online-traffic-complaint-form.cfm

What are the bicycle helmet laws for Oregon?

Effective on July 1, 1994, any youth under age 16 riding a bike or when a passenger on a bike in any public place (streets, roads, sidewalks, parks, etc.) must wear bicycle helmets labeled ANSI and/or Snell approved.

Bike helmets save lives and have been shown to reduce serious head injuries by as much as 85%.

You could get a ticket and a $25 fine. If you are under age 12, your parent or guardian could get a ticket. If you are over 12, either you or your parent can get a ticket.

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What is the speed limit when there are no speed signs posted?

Oregon law sets the following speed zone standards:
  • 20 mph - business districts, school zones
  • 25 mph - internal subdivision streets, public parks, ocean shores
  • 55 mph - open highways and rural roads
  • Posted speeds override these statutory standards. All travel on public roads is subject to Oregon's Basic Speed Rule. The Basic Speed Rule states that a motorist must drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent considering other traffic, road and weather conditions, dangers at intersections and any other conditions that affect safety and speed. In other words, drivers are expected to use good judgment in selecting their speed. The Basic Speed Rule does not allow a driver to exceed the posted speed. A driver could also drive below the posted speed and violate the Basic Speed Rule. For example, in snow or ice, a driver could travel at less than the posted speed and still be traveling faster than is reasonable and prudent for the conditions.

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    Who do I contact if I have a specific traffic safety concern in my neighborhood that may involve adding new signs or street striping?

    To request a service or report a road-related problem, call 503-846-ROAD (846-7623), e-mail us, or submit the online service request form.

    To report a hazardous road condition outside of normal business hours, call the Washington County 911 non-emergency response number: 503-629-0111.

    Related: Sheriff's Office Traffic Complaints (patrol enforcement request)