A Crooked River Ranch woman with two small children in the back seat was cited over the weekend for driving faster than 100 mph on U.S. Highway 97 south of Bend. She said her son had to go to the bathroom.

At around midnight Sunday, Ashley Marie Wilder, 26, was driving a 2007 Dodge Caliber north on Highway 97 near Lava Butte, according to a traffic citation by Oregon State Police.

A trooper checked her speed with radar as she rounded a downhill corner near milepost 148.

The fall deer migration is occurring in the area, and Trooper Richard Gay noted in his report conditions were “pitch black.” It took him one mile from a stopped position to catch up to Wilder to pull her over, he wrote.

“The driver stated that she wasn’t paying attention to the speedometer and that her son needed to go to the bathroom,” Gay said. Her two young children, born in 2013 and 2014, were in the back seat.

The designated speed for that section of Highway 97 is 65 mph. The presumptive fine for traveling 100 mph in a 65 mph zone is $1,150.

Wilder was also cited last month for driving 69 mph in a 45 mph zone in Jefferson County.

She agreed to enter traffic safety school in exchange for not being prosecuted for that offense. But with her latest ticket, her diversion agreement with the state will likely be revoked.

With 12,000 vehicles per day, Highway 97 is the major north-south corridor in Central Oregon. Oregon Department of Transportation has said safety is a concern for Highway 97 south of Bend due to limited passing opportunities, which can cause long following times that lead some drivers to pass at high speeds with limited sight distances.

In December, a man was killed in a crash near Sunriver when a minivan traveling north and seen driving at high speeds hit his truck and sent it off the road and into a tree. The previous year, a California woman died south of Sunriver when the car she was in, traveling at a “very high rate of speed” passing multiple vehicles, lost control and hit a truck.

In 2017, police agencies ramped up patrols on U.S. Highway 97 near Lava Butte in response to a spike in fatal and serious injury crashes in the region.

Highway 97 between Bend and Sunriver was expanded as a safety measure by ODOT several years ago after several bad crashes, according to spokesman Peter Murphy. Lanes were doubled, from two to four, and separated by a median.

Murphy said the agency is always looking at crash rates, so it can improve safety as the budget allows.

“What we’ve noticed on Highway 97 is there’s no one stretch that’s any more dangerous than any other,” he said.

Representatives of both Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Transportation said the section of Highway 97 near Lava Butte was not any more susceptible to speeding than any other.

“There is a lot of speeding many places in the state,” said OSP Capt. Tim Fox.

“The majority of crashes in Oregon involve driver behavior,” Murphy said. “And driver behavior is something that motorists can control.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, gandrews@bendbulletin.com

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