This week, the 4th of July holiday may provide a short work-week for some, while others continue to commute to jobs that serve the rest of us—grocery stores, outlet malls, gas stations, hotels, and just about anything to do with travel, tourism and the holiday celebration. Since Friday, July 3rd may be the official day off for many, expect high volumes of traffic on all roadways over a three to four day period.
In addition to bustling holiday traffic, high temperatures and a new Oregon law (legalizing recreational marijuana) have the potential to throw a few curves into your Oregon road trip. Oregon Travel Experience would like to share a few holiday summer travel tips regarding the new marijuana law, and about how you can keep your family safe and legal when stopping to use rest area amenities.
July 1st new marijuana rules and OLCC’s “Educate Before You Recreate” Program
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is prepared for the onset of the legalization of marijuana use in our state this Wednesday, July 1st. Specific restrictions apply to drivers and their passengers, and maintaining safety on the roadways. Two questions that may be at the top of the list for motorists and rest area users are answered below:
Is marijuana use subject to citation under the Oregon DUII law?
Drivers may wonder if they are susceptible to a DUII if they’ve imbibed marijuana. The answer from OLCC is a resounding “Yes.” Current laws for DUII have not changed. Driving under the influence of intoxicants refers to operating a vehicle while intoxicated or drugged, including impairment from the use of marijuana. OLCC will be actively collecting data on the numbers of DUII associated with marijuana use in conjunction with the Department of Criminal Justice Division and Oregon State Police. This rule applies to passengers as well. Although you may not be the designated driver, as a passenger you are subject to the same legal restrictions as drivers.
What about using recreational products at rest areas?
Marijuana use (and alcohol or other intoxicants) is prohibited within rest areas or other public places, as well as on the highway. Measure 91 (the law legalizing personal marijuana use) defines a public place as “a place to where the general public has access and includes, but is not limited to, hallways, lobbies, and other parts of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence, and highways, streets, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and premises used in conjunction with public passenger transportation.” Highway safety rest areas fall under the category of “premises used in conjunction with public transportation,” so please refrain from using rest areas as staging spots to “recreate” or celebrate with marijuana.
For more information, please refer to OLCC’s Measure 91 public service campaign, “Educate Before You Recreate.” You can also download an OLCC infographic explaining what is legal.
High temperatures and recreational travel safety
For those of us living in Oregon, our extreme dry and prolonged high temperatures have been a “hot” topic around the office water cooler lately. Hazards associated with drought, wildfire, and heat exhaustion still loom across the state. Temperatures for the Willamette Valley over the July 4th weekend are predicted to reach well into the mid and upper 90s.
If you are traveling for the Fourth and have an extra sparkler or legal fireworks left over from a celebration, please reserve their use until you arrive back home. Using fireworks within Oregon rest areas is prohibited.
Oregon rest areas offer many amenities to comfort heat weary travelers, including fresh water, shaded picnic tables, pet watering fountains, and walking trails—some even provide access to boat ramps operated by the Oregon Marine Board. However, children and young adults may not be aware of the dangers associated with local rivers and lakes. OTE asks that any boating or paddling enthusiasts accessing river frontage from any highway rest area to please review the Oregon Marine Board safety tips (below) for boating and water safety.
Boater education cards
- Educated boaters are safer boaters. Boaters who haven’t taken a boating safety course are 85% more likely to be involved in boating accidents.
- The goal of education is to make the waterways safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
- Oregon law requires all boaters 12 and over operating a motorboat over 10 hp must carry a boater education card.
- The card is good for life. It’s not a license.
- Courses are available online or in the classroom. Oregon offers equivalency exams for experienced boaters.
No matter what activity you’re involved in –boating, fishing, hunting, sailing, always remember to wear a life jacket when you are in or around the water.
- Drowning is the leading cause of death in nearly 3/4 of boating related fatalities and 84% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
- Life jackets must be Coast Guard-approved, in serviceable condition, and properly fit the person wearing it. Wear the appropriate life jacket for the boating activity. Styles/types differ in buoyancy.
- Life jackets need to be snug enough to not rise to the ears when lifting the jacket from the shoulders. This is how the jacket will float the person in the water.
- All children 12 and under are required in OR to wear a life jacket when a boat is underway for all boat lengths.
Boating and water safety tips
- Alcohol and water don’t mix. “Boat Safe, Boat Sober.” Don’t consume alcohol and get near the water.
- Be familiar with state boating laws.
- Make sure your boat is as prepared as you are. Schedule a boat inspection before you hit the water.
- Check the weather before going boating and in coastal areas, tune in to VHF Channel 16 and the NOAA weather channel for real-time weather information.
- Keep a sharp lookout for debris, tree stumps, rocks, and other objects in the water. Go slow when first heading out. For paddlers, scout the run ahead of time and plan where to put in and take out.
- Have a float plan, so friends and family know where you’re going, how long you expect to be gone, and when to call for help.
- Paddling? Expect to get wet. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Fill out a float plan and let people know where you are putting in and taking out, as well as how long you expect to be gone. Never boat alone.
In Oregon, drowning deaths most often occur in warm months. What makes Oregon unique is the frequency of drowning deaths in water bodies fed by snow melt which includes most cold-running rivers found in the state.
Safe Kids Oregon promotes the wearing of personal flotation devices (PFDs) in non-motorized water craft and for non-boating recreation such as swimming and playing in rivers and lakes and pools, for both children and adults. Safe Kids Oregon also encourages all families to enroll children in swimming lessons. Swim lessons will teach children how to tread water, float and stay by the shore.
Active supervision of children in and around water bodies is an extremely important factor in preventing drowning fatalities. Active supervision is defined as constantly keeping eyes on a child, without distractions such as answering the phone, talking, reading a book.
Prepare for rest area visits by securing your valuables
While OTE staff and law enforcement work to prevent illegal activity within our supervised rest areas, these are still large and open public spaces, sometimes encompassing 100 acres or more. As with state parks, hiking trails, or public gathering places, the potential for illegal activity exists no matter where the location. However, Oregon Travel Experience works in tandem with local law enforcement officers and Oregon State Patrol to actively reduce aggressive or illicit activity at rest areas we manage.
- LOCK your vehicle when unattended
- CHECK your immediate surroundings before exiting your car
- STOP look and listen: if you note suspicious activity, remain in your vehicle with doors locked
- Step back a safe distance from strangers who approach you with requests for money or rides
- Never leave visible valuables in your car, such as cell phones or handbags
- Before you exit the restrooms, check to make sure you have all personal belongings
- Park in area that is well-lit and where other travelers are present
- Avoid walking in dark or isolated perimeters of the rest area
- Do not carry large sums of cash
- Do not leave children or pets unattended
- If you are approached by aggressive persons, turn and leave instead of engaging in conversation. Call 911 when you are safely away from any threatening activity.
If anyone makes your rest area experience uncomfortable, we request that you contact law enforcement or notify our onsite uniformed staff. OTE staff offices are located in mobile trailers with ADA accessible ramps. Free Coffee Program services are also run from the same OTE office quarters at most locations.
OTE Salem headquarters staffing and hours for Fourth of July
Our main OTE Salem office will be closed this coming Friday, July 3, 2015 in observance of Independence Day. However, rest area staff will be on duty at all 29 of our locations, and available after hours in case of emergencies by telephoning the Oregon Department of Transportation Dispatch Line at 877-527-6580.
From all of us at OTE, have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July.