You’ll notice new highway safety signs when traveling on OR 6 between Banks and Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.
The new signs are part of an effort by ODOT to improve safety by reminding motorists about driving safely on this 49-mile stretch of road, the Wilson River Highway, which has seen an increasing number of crashes, including many fatalities.
“We all must recognize OR 6 is not a high speed facility and adjust our driving habits accordingly,” said ODOT regional manager Sonny Chickering. “This is a rural, mountainous road with narrow sections and low speed curves that traverse several major and active slide areas. Because the route is key to the economy of Tillamook and nearby coastal communities, there are many large trucks and recreational vehicles using the highway. We’ve all got to be more careful.”
A crash east of Tillamook claimed one life last Halloween and brought to seven the number of fatalities in 2021 on this section of road based on preliminary data. That’s the same number of fatalities recorded during the entire five-year period between 2016 and 2020. All of the 2021 fatalities involved lane departures.
The road, much of it two lanes, passes from the Willamette Valley over the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. It passes through the historic Tillamook Burn lands, the Tillamook State Forest, over twists, turns and steep grades. In the course of a year it may see a little of everything, including snow, ice, heavy rain and slides. It carries tourists, semis and logging trucks. And sometimes a nearby elk herd wanders by.
After discussions with local residents, including business owners and road users, ODOT crews in recent weeks installed new signs. These included 45 mph advisory speed signs near milepost 36, a bumpy stretch of OR 6; and signs at some curves with poor visibility advising of school bus stops ahead. In addition, new signs post the CB channel used by school bus operators, a way for truckers to better connect with the buses and know their locations.
ODOT regional traffic safety officer Nicole Charlson says you can improve safety by taking these simple steps:
- Obey the speed limit. Excessive speed is a factor in many crashes and the most common factor in crashes that result in fatalities.
- Know before you go. Be aware of weather and traffic conditions before leaving, adjusting your speed and driving to the conditions – especially in rainy weather and in low-light areas.
- Drive, walk, bike, or roll sober. Alcohol and drugs impair your abilities and judgment. At all times make sure there’s a non-impaired driver behind the wheel.
- Pay attention. Your life depends on it. A split-second distraction could cost a life.
- Get rested before you are tested. Avoid being fatigued or drowsy so you can arrive at your destination safely. Allow plenty of time to get where you’re going.
- Drive for conditions. Rain, snow, or extra traffic – slow down and give extra space for stopping time. Be especially cautious accelerating in snowy, icy, or rainy conditions. Visit com for current road conditions.
- Don’t pass in no-passing zones. A double solid painted yellow line in the center of the road means passing is not allowed in either direction. A broken yellow line on your side means you can pass when it’s safe.
- Buckle up every time. Of course. Safety belts and child safety seats are the biggest contributors to saving lives in crashes.