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"Vulnerable roadway user" proposal moves forward

Posted by on February 22nd, 2007 at 7:11 am

The last, and most innovative of the BTA’s three legislative proposals is just one minor step from being an official bill.

Their “vulnerable users” proposal will be turned into the House Judiciary Committee in Salem today.

Here’s the official wording of the bill summary:

    Creates offense of infliction of serious physical injury or death to vulnerable user of public way. Punishes by maximum of one year’s imprisonment, $6,250 fine, or both. Creates driving diversion agreement.

Here’s the draft text of the bill in PDF form.

In other legislative news, I’m leaving for Salem in a few minutes to meet with Senator Jason Atkinson and local velodrome advocate Steve Brown.

Stay tuned for more updates on this and other legislative news soon.

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Comments
  • Richard S February 22, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I like the look of this bill – it’s a start along the road of making all users of the transport infrastructure equal. I do have a number of questions.
    1. Who will pay for the diversion process / training?
    2. Will there be some sort of outreach program to inform drivers in the state of the new regulations? (prevention being better than a cure)

    It would be interesting to see how this would play out in the case where a motorist talking on a cell phone hit and seriously injured a cyclist.

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  • ridealot February 22, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I don’t like the look of this bill. But I do applaud the efforts of the folks who are working on these issues.

    Richard in the case you pose, the rider would still be down. The only difference would be that the driver would have to go into a diversion program and lose there license for a bit and do some community service.

    In my humble opinion, we need laws that improve road safety, not laws that provide a moderate punishment for the few who really screw up. If you kill someone, you should be severly punished, not offered a ‘diversion program’. I personally don’t care if you are driving while reading a book and talking on the cell phone or firing a gun into a crowd.

    We also need serious enforcment, funded by offenders.

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  • craig February 22, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I don’t really understand the “diversion” statement. Does this mean you can seriously injure a cyclist or pedestrian one time and get a “diversion” but your 2nd time you get into “trouble”? I really don’t like this diversion process.

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  • Richard S February 22, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Re diversion process. It does read like you could “get a pass” first time around. However, it’s better than what we have now (nothing), and might have a chance of being passed.

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  • Jonathan Maus February 22, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I think given the state of our prisons, any bill that attempts to incarcerate more people will have a much harder time getting passed.

    Also consider this:

    would your rather have someone who hit a cyclist rot in prison, or would you want them teaching high school kids about the importance of safe driving and/or doing some other sort of community service?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis February 22, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Good point, Jonathan. This is an excellent bill and we should all support its passage. Although improving roadway safety is also important, this is part of a comprehensive approach to making cycling safer by substantially enhancing the punishment for unsafe behavior by motorists.

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  • trike February 22, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    fine them and ensure they cover the med bills and living expences. 25.000$ is just not enough insurance. unless you cut medical expence.

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  • Garlynn February 22, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I would have to agree with ridealot on this one.

    Why such light sentences?

    One year/$6250 sounds better for a minimum sentence, achievable only with the diversion program and only if death was not a factor.

    Ten years/$100,000 should be the maximum if there is a death involved.

    The message should be sent that injuring or killing pedestrians, bicyclists or other vulnerable roadway users cannot be tolerated, and that drivers must be on the alert AT ALL TIMES.

    As proposed, this bill is just a slap on the wrist.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis February 22, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    If you had to come up with $6,250 in the next 60 days, could you? If so, then you’re far better off than most Oregonians. And even if you can, I’m still guessing that it would “hurt,” i.e., be difficult. And you obviously don’t have much experience with the legal system if you think you’re going to actually be able to collect a $100,000 fine from most people.

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  • Erin February 22, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Perhaps we couldn’t collect the cash. We could certainly lock them away for ten years.

    We have no trouble incarcerating domestic violence offenders. No problem locking up people for drug infractions.

    Last I checked there was plenty of room to lock you up if you kill a cop with your car…

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  • Martha February 22, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    This is a step in the right direction. There’s no one single fix to make bicycling completely safe: we’ll continue to need public education, improved infrastructure, and changes to attitudes, as well as laws like this to back up enforcement efforts. I hope that there will be some publicity about the law when and if it passes, but you can be sure that the first time it gets implemented, all of the news channels will be reporting on it.

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  • Scott Bricker, BTA February 22, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    The current law allows for restitution that includes medical bills and lost work. We tried to clarify this but it’s a part that we will continue to work on.

    I will continue to follow this thread and make additional comments.

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  • sh February 22, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Does anyone here feel that $6250. is an adequate price to pay for extinquishing a cyclist’s or pedestrian’s life, or their quality of life? Doubtful.

    Is this measure perfect? Nope. But I’m very pleased to see it as an important first step – a step that projects the concept of defined punishment for vehicular negligence into the larger public realm.

    Attornatus’ point is a good one: even if someone was fined 100K, actually making them pay is a difficult procedure (and can be an even larger battle than winning the original case, oh yes).

    This is a small, incremental step that can lead to a larger leap down the ol’ road, and another reason to appreciate the advocacy efforts of the BTA (which, of course, I do.)

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  • Garlynn February 22, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    AO-

    Yes, and that’s why those fines should be maximums. The real fine imposed in any case would be up to the judge/jury, but having really high maximums would allow this law to be noticed by everybody, rich and poor alike.

    The point is not whether everybody could pay the 100k. The point is to build a high maximum into the law, then allow the court systems the discretion to set whatever fine they see fit based on individual cases and circumstances, with the freedom to impose heavy fines when appropriate.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis February 22, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    As I have said, the fine is heavy. This is obviously a subjective judgment, but consider it in the context of paying all medical bills, bicycle & clothes replacement, pain and suffering, lost wages, lost enjoyment of life, lost consortium, etc. According to Scott, the medical bills are available directly through the criminal judgment, and the rest are all available through a civil judgment. And then you have to pay ~6k on top of that. If you killed or seriously injured someone, you’d be looking at around anywhere from 100k upward to almost a million. It depends on the age, employment, and family of the victim.

    Also, you may think the point is not whether people can pay the 100k, but members of the legislature tend to disagree. Most policy makers believe that having a lot of outstanding judgments for the State is bad policy because it tends to create people who are perpetually indebted. Those people then do desperate things, like flee the state or rob banks, or become homeless. Meanwhile, the victim and media stand by asking why the government can’t get this person their money. The whole process ends up being far more expensive and embarrassing than effective. The British used to drive us into perpetual debt this way, creating a whole class of people who just owed money to the Crown their entire lives. It’s why we enacted the Eighth Amendment.

    Please consider these arguments a bit further before coming down on a law that has the opportunity to serve as a meaningful piece of the puzzle of transforming the roads into places that are safe for cyclists. I agree that it’s a less than ideal punishment, but we live in a less than ideal world, and the law will always be less than perfect. This is a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along every day. The BTA and we cyclists are doing something special here in Portland and in Oregon. Changes like this need the support of all cyclists.

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  • Garlynn February 23, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    AO-

    OK, you make a good point, and I agree with you — the important thing is to support this law, because it explicitly criminalizes something that has up to now not been so specifically spelled out in the law.

    Thanks for giving the historical reference and context as to why the crimes & punishments, as specified in this bill, might not be higher.

    cheers,
    ~Garlynn

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  • Martha March 27, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    I also wish that the law was a bit harsher, but this is far, far better than nothing. I think we all know of at least one situation where a driver killed or seriously injurred someone and got off with almost nothing. Perhaps this will be strengthened later, but for now it’s a big improvement.

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