Eight people died in a August crash in Harney County on Oregon 78, one of the deadliest single crashes in recent history (Courtesy of OSP)
The number of people killed on city streets, freeways and country highways in Oregon is 13 percent higher so far this year, a death toll driven upward this summer by one of the deadliest crashes in state history. Eight people were killed in a head-on crash in Harney County in mid-August, and that incident, along with several other multiple-vehicle crashes this summer, are reversing what had been a dramatic downturn in traffic fatalities in 2017. State transportation officials say that is all part of a worrisome trend this year: Multiple people dying in a single incident. The state's transportation commission will be briefed on the matter Thursday.  "We've just had a horrific summer," said Troy Costales, administrator of the state's transportation safety division. Costales said Oregon has seen 12 more fatal crashes than last year, but the number of people killed has increased by 37. The fatality increase comes as Oregon continues to grow - more than 311,000 people moved to the state between 2010 and 2017 - but the number of state troopers patrolling the highways remains dramatically lower than in 1980.  In highway safety, officials look at four e's - enforcement, engineering, education and emergency medical services - to try and address traffic deaths.  Oregon's weakest "e," Costales said, is enforcement. People moderate their behavior, he said, "if you think you have the potential of being caught." In 1980, the state policy agency was authorized to have 624 troopers and sergeants patrolling Oregon roads. Today, the agency has the money to employ 381. But according to Captain Tim Fox, a state police spokesman, the state also has 72 vacancies, leaving 309 on the road. The police agency will ask state lawmakers next year for $64 million over the next 12 years to hire more troopers. 
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Fox said most calls troopers respond to are on Interstate 5, Interstate 84 and other major highways. But many fatalities occur on smaller highways, where troopers aren't able to patrol as much. "We believe that we could make a difference if we were able to be out on those secondary highways," Fox said.
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