Oregon updates traffic speed rules

speed limit sign in oregon
by Cami Villanueva, student editor

In January’s discussion on speed limits, we talked about the speeding complaints in our community; ways some communities faced this problem; and measures you can take to help solve speeding problems. Now, we’ll be diving into a more permanent solution: permanently kicking the speed limits down a few miles per hour. 

speed limit sign in oregon

For years, Oregon’s traffic speed rules used old research and limited local input. All speed limits were set using the “85th percentile rule,” meaning at the current speed 85% of drivers are using or under. As you all have seen, people tend to speed, forcing the official speed limit to be higher than what is safe. This 85th percentile rule has been targeted as the reason for the nation’s rising traffic death toll.

Fortunately Oregon has taken action, eliminating the 85th percentile rule, replacing it with a 50th percentile rule, a preference for matching speeds 50% of drivers use or less. This is not the only exciting new change! Oregon has also reorganized the street classification system to designate not just urban and rural streets, but multiple combinations of both, such as “urban core” or “suburban fringe.” This will hopefully reflect the diversity of Oregon roads and their specific needs. To learn more about the new national study, consider reading the “City Limits” booklet from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).  It describes some of the national research that inspired these new traffic rule changes.

You may be wondering, how will this new change affect our Cedar Mill Community? Local input is essential to making Oregon roads safer, because no one knows Cedar Mill better than we do. Before anyone starts sending suggestions to ODOT and Washington County, familiarize yourself with the process it takes to have a speed limit changed. You can learn more in ODOT’s Speed Zone Manual. This manual also digs a little deeper on how these new traffic rules are being applied in Oregon.

In order to make a formal request for an investigation to lower a speed limit, a member of the county engineering staff must fill out the online form available in the Speed Zone Manual. However, ODOT was kind enough to add an email for private citizens to put in their suggestions: ODOTSpeedZoning@odot.state.or.us. Working with your county staff members is still the recommended way to make a request.

Even with all these new changes, good judgment is key to keeping the roads safe. It will be a while before we start seeing speed limit changes. In the meantime, be kind and understanding, whether you’re a driver or pedestrian.