ONTARIO — The speed limit on U.S. Highway 95 in Malheur County, between Idaho and Nevada, is 70 miles per hour, the result of legislation which increased speed limits on several highways on the east of the Cascades. However, that is apparently not enough for some people as motorists are regularly ticketed for going more than 80 mph.
That was among the comments made during the meeting of the Malheur County Traffic Safety Commission Thursday at the Plaza Inn, which has been renewed. The commission met for the first time in a couple of years after the loss of its coordinator and dwindling participation.
The effort of restarting the group was lead by Lt. Richard Harriman, County Emergency Management.
During Thursday’s discussion, one of the topics was the speed which motorists travel on the route and the concern that people are unaware of how far they may be from any medical response or care.
In the discussion, Malheur County Undersheriff Travis Johnson said the average speed of motorists getting stopped by a deputies is 86 to 87 mph, and the top speed has been 117 mph.
In an interview Friday, Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said the deputy who writes most of the tickets is averaging 50 to 60 tickets per week, (an average of 12 to 15 tickets per day) in a four-day work week, and he does not write a ticket on anything under 80 mph.
Malheur County Justice of the Peace Margaret Mahoney said the number of citations submitted to Justice Court were slowing down the process of handling them.
It is 122 miles between the state lines and it will take time for a medical response to any accident in between, Wolfe said.
“It takes a while to get there. Driver fatigue is common,” he said.
The nearest hospitals are in Caldwell, about 75 miles from Jordan Valley on the north end and Winnemucca to the south, another 75 miles from McDermott.
Air ambulances can be called in but cannot fly in bad weather conditions, Wolfe said.
There is a volunteer ambulance service based in Jordan Valley and staff ambulance service based at McDermitt, Nevada, Wolfe said, but will respond 20 miles into Oregon, so the response north of that comes from Jordan Valley.
It was suggested by commission members that signs be installed along Highway 95 to advise motorists that medical assistance is not readily available along the route and more care should be taken in driving.
In another discussion, Lt. Mark Duncan, of Oregon State Police, advised his officers are seizing marijuana and related products if motorists, stopped for a traffic violation or other reason, are likely taking their product purchased in Oregon to Idaho.
In addition to the marijuana being seized, people can be cited either for driving under the influence, if they have been smoking their marijuana, or exportation if just transporting it.
The traffic safety commission meets the second Thursday of the month at noon at the Plaza Inn to discuss various traffic and traffic safety issues. Although those attending represent law enforcement and other agencies, county, city and state, the public is welcome to attend and bring up issues.