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Rain's onset brings rash of crashes.

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

Oregon's rainy season began this year the way it always does, with a gang of fender benders as drivers smacked into other vehicles and slid into guardrails on newly slick roads.

During the 29 hours from 8 a.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday, 12 accidents were reported to police in the Eugene area, Eugene police spokeswoman Kerry Delf said. Compare that with the same time period a week ago, where just four accidents were reported. There probably were several other minor fender benders, Delf said, that wouldn't require police presence.

But on Sunday and Monday, rain fell, drizzled and spit periodically with occasional short-lived drenching showers for a total of just more than a half-inch accumulation at the Eugene Airport, according to the National Weather Service's Web site.

In addition to a Monday morning fatal accident on Delta Highway near Belt Line Road, two SUVs slid into trouble on Interstate 105 near Seventh Avenue, one of them riding up a guardrail, the other high centering on a highway divider. Other minor collisions were reported on Franklin Boulevard near Villard Street and at University Street and 30th Avenue, and a couple more on Delta Highway, but none near the Belt Line interchange, Delf said.

The flurry of wrecks were no surprise to Sgt. Derel Schulz, Eugene police traffic enforcement unit supervisor.

When days turn from clear, dry and sunny to overcast, dark and rainy, visibility drops and road conditions deteriorate. Rain loosens debris and oil that have baked into the road all summer, making the roads slicker still, Schulz said.

"We see a pretty sudden spike in the number of traffic crashes," he said.

He expects the number of accidents to plateau and then drop off as people remember their bad-weather driving skills.

"I think once people get a handle on it, they tend to get it figured out," he said.

Drivers should ease up, go the speed limit and allow more space between vehicles so they have plenty of room to stop, Schulz said.

He recommends that vehicle owners take time to make sure their tires and windshield wipers are in good working order. Wipers that don't squeegee the water off the windshield make it hard to see. Tires should have sufficient tread to provide good traction on wet roads and be properly inflated, Schulz said.

Expect a brief reprieve from rain today and Wednesday, with party cloudy skies, according to the National Weather Service. A chance of rain returns Wednesday night and Thursday with high temperatures in the low 60s and lows in the low 40s.
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Title Annotation:Accidents; A dozen accidents are reported in the Eugene area, including one fatal wreck
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 17, 2006
Words:434
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