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Sizer issues executive order on crash investigations; unveils new code procedures

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 13th, 2008 at 10:25 am

Traffic Division Captain Larry O'Dea
(Photo © J. Maus)

In an executive order issued on Monday (2/11), Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer made official what I reported on one month ago -- new language has been added to the list of crash investigation criteria that will have a major impact on bike-involved collisions.

At last night's Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, new Traffic Division Captain Larry O'Dea handed me the order, and in addition to the new crash investigation threshold, he pointed out another new policy that will improve bike-related enforcement practices.

First, here's the new language that changes when a crash investigation is triggered:

Investigation Criteria (640.50)
c. Accidents involving physical injury to vulnerable road users where the vulnerable road user is transported by ambulance.

Prior to this new directive, an investigation would only be triggered if a crash victim had very serious "trauma-level" injuries.

In addition to this change, the new executive order lists another line item under "Investigation Criteria" that requires responding officers to use a new set of codes when responding to crashes.

Effectively immediately, officers are required to add a code to all traffic crash calls (reports) that more precisely define who and what was involved in the collision. Previously, officers would only reference a generic "R1" to a traffic crash report. Now, officers will use "RV" if only motor vehicles were involved, "RP" if a pedestrian is involved, or "RB" if a bicycle is involved.

Here's the official wording:

h. Members will disposition the call with the following new codes instead of R1. Use RV if vehicle only involved, RP if pedestrian involved (including wheelchairs), and RB if bicycle involved.

This is a big improvement for non-motor vehicle road users because, as O'Dea explained to me last night, the new codes are specifically meant to provide the Police Bureau, advocates, and the public a better picture of what types of collisions are occurring. "With these new codes," said O'Dea, "it will be easier to take a quick look at the collision stats and find out what type of vehicles were involved...instead of having to dig into each report, we can quickly see whether a bicycle was involved or not."

O'Dea, who attended last night's meeting with new Lieutenant Bryan Parman, also said that he and Parman plan to be more involved with the bike community from here on out.

I plan to meet with O'Dea sometime next week so I can share a closer look at who he is and what his tenure might have in store for the bike community.

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  • Torfinn February 13, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Sweet. Kudos cops!

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  • Jason Penney February 13, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Jonathan, as good as this sounds, I kind of take issue with Sizer\'s new characterizations.

    First of all, it implies that a bicycle is not a vehicle (contrary to the ORS). Why not \"RM\" for motor vehicle?

    Second of all, about half of all bicycle accidents don\'t involve a motor vehicle. Admittedly, relatively few of those involve transport by ambulance, but how are those characterized?

    How about \"RM\" (motor vehicle) instead of \"RV\", and some additional codes for bike/bike and bike/pedestrian collisions?

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  • tonyt February 13, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Steps in the right direction.

    Thanks Jonathan!

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  • Dabby February 13, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I agree that while this is a step in the right direction, requiring an ambulance ride in order to have your accident investigated is an insult.

    Most cyclists are stronger, in better shape, and can actually bounce and survive anything better than those lazily strapped into a steel box. Plus, the endorphines involved in such an accident tend to trigger thoughts that everything is ok, you can ride on home. This is exactly what happened to me in a car/bike accident in 2006.

    Then you wake up the next morning and go to the emergency room, in dire pain. This is a fact of a bicycle wreck, whether on the road, or in the woods. Your chemicals take over to get you through it.

    This will not change much, just save the ass of the police, (civil liability) as they are under the gun on such issues.

    Thinking that this change will make the difference we need is a pipe dream.

    What we do need is thorough investigation of any serious car/car, bike/car, ped/car accident, regardless of whether the injured take a $1500 dollar ride to the hospital. And in no manner based on financial issues!

    We also need to revamp, and properly apply, the citizen\'s police review board (not the proper name for it)

    Knowing these two things will happen could possibly change the actions of enough road user and police officer\'s, to make an actual difference.

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  • bahueh February 13, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    wow, Dabby, thanks for the positive feedback for the forwards steps taken...you\'re a big help...

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  • Spencer February 13, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    If the threshold is being transported by the ambulance, can a injured rider insist on being transported? For example, \"my leg hurts too much to walk\" or \"I blacked out for a period of time\" which implies a head injury requiring observation.

    Get on the bus

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  • Joshua Cohen February 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I\'m happy to see some movement from the Police Bureau, and I want to expand on Jason\'s comments (#2).

    \"RV\" is also problematic because it sounds almost identical (phonetically) to \"RB\". When codes are reported over the phone or radio, misunderstandings are likely.

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  • a.O February 13, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Yes Spencer, you can insist.

    Perhaps you\'ve never been in an collision, but you don\'t have to - they encourage you to go even if they don\'t see anything wrong with you, as a \"precaution\" (and a profitable one).

    I did that when I didn\'t have insurance once, and it cost me about $2,000. Nothing was wrong with me (that the hospital could fix, ha!) - that was just the ambulance charge.

    So we know one group of Portland bicyclists who won\'t get their crashes investigated unless they\'re obviously in need of immediate medical attention: the uninsured.

    The PPB insists they need rules like this because they don\'t have the resources to investigate all crashes. I don\'t know whether that\'s true or not, but it does beg the question of how they prioritize the use of the resources they do have.

    At least the Traffic Division Captain is no longer telling the public that they don\'t have to yield to cyclists if they don\'t perceive the need to, I guess.

    And at least a few more collisions will get investigated.

    But based on the PPB\'s newly-invented \"totality-of-the-circumstances\" test for deciding whether to issue citations for violations of ORS 811.050, I\'d say that an \"investigation\" may not mean much. I hope this change in policy is more than an appeasment tactic. But time will tell, I suppose.

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  • Spencer February 13, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    a.O.

    That is interesting. I thought the $0.75 surcharge on your phone bill paid for ambulance service in the metro area. When I went through my EMT training the instructor talked about that and what a bargin it was for the metro area. Maybe I mis-understood or things have changed, but if the ambulance was gratis then people should take the ride, and leave the hospital unpon arrival to prevent the ER bill. Down side would be leaving ama if you end up suing a driver later on.

    Does anyone know for sure. a.O. was you $2k for the ride or the ER?

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  • Anonymous February 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    @4 - \"Most cyclists are stronger, in better shape, and can actually bounce and survive anything better than those lazily strapped into a steel box.\"

    And the cycling community wonders why there are such issues here?

    I have a career that requires me to be able to drive. I have an 87 year old grandfather that won\'t get to eat if I don\'t transport him to and from the grocery store (Yeah, we tried the bus, doesn\'t work for an old guy with anxiety problems).

    I am certainly not lazy - I run marathons in my spare time! I walk whenever/wherever I can.

    Stop assuming that all motorists are monsters! I follow every single rule of the road. I see motorists that don\'t, just like a see plenty of cyclists that don\'t. I slam on my brakes so members of your \"community\" don\'t get hurt when they are breaking the law.

    You might not think the latest changes with PPB are going to help. They might night. But you know what? Your attitude isn\'t going to help anything either - it\'s going to make things worse.

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  • steve February 13, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    My. God.

    a.O, dabby and myself all agree on something.

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  • a.O February 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    steve, maybe this is armageddon!

    Spencer, I didn\'t realize that was the case here in PDX. My ambulance ride was in Seattle. Does the surcharge here mean all ambulance rides are free? Or just subsidized?

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  • Lisa February 13, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    This is a step in the right direction. Maybe now we can find out why a driver decided to go the wrong way around a traffic circle at 47th and Brazee sending a cyclist to the hospital (the same unfortunate day of the Beaverton tragedy).

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  • Dabby February 13, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Anonymous,

    Perhaps you have the wrong impression.

    I am a driver too. I have a taste for fast Audi\'s. And old VW\'s.

    While I could have used a different word than lazy, that is describing how I feel when I drive instead of riding my bike. Lazy. And comfortably eschonced in a big steel (or aluminum as Audi\'s go) cage.

    But my point is still entirely valid.

    At the moment of impact with a bike, while a driver may experience some stress, and a slight endorphine rush, it is nothing compared to what happens in the mind of the cyclist, especially if you see the wreck coming. And in the minutes, or longer even, afterwards.

    I dare you to deny the effects of endorphines, and other chemicals released by the body, on the decision making process. Prove me wrong.

    Please.

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  • Dag February 13, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I think the phone bill surcharge is just to cover the 911 phone operator. There definitely is a charge if you take a ride in the ambulance.

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  • Jessica Roberts February 13, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    This is what bicyclists have been asking the police to do for years. Please, let\'s take the time to thank them and let them know that we are behind this step before we start complaining about all the things it doesn\'t do!

    Change happens in small steps and through building relationships. If you don\'t think this goes far enough, I encourage you to stay active in seeking change, but don\'t dismiss this positive step. We run the risk of being dismissed as a bunch of whiners who aren\'t interested in realistic change if all we ever do is complain.

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  • Anonymous February 13, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Dabby -

    I in no way deny the effect of endorphins nor your overall point. It wasn\'t your point I was commenting on, but your tone - a tone that I see all too often on this board, and which I think contributes the problems between motorists and bicyclists.

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  • nahbois February 13, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    my ambulance ride cost money... A LOT of money. It included the charge for the \'ride\' and a mileage charge.

    Luckily for me I was insured, and close to the hospital. I can\'t imagine what it would be like for someone who is not insured.

    As for the directives, I believe that this will certainly help. I don\'t think that the police (although not certain) were well versed on procedure--maybe there was no clear cut procedure for motor vehicle/bike-- but having a clear written directive should help clear this up for the portland police.

    Does anyone know if these directives apply to any officer who happens upon the scene or if it just applies to traffic cops?

    Also does the RB also include motor bikes -- because they are certainly vulnerable when it comes to the carelessness of drivers.

    Jessica - Right on! :)

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  • Spencer February 13, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Did some googling,

    Cost per ambulance ride in Clackamas Co. is $895. http://publicsafety.com/article/article.jsp?id=3334&siteSection=1

    Turns out the Phone fee is for 911 only,

    Thanks for setting me strait

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  • Spencer February 13, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    a.O. has a great point about the un-insured.

    They should have a provision where if EMS personnel recommend transport, but patient declines there is still an investigation.

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  • PoPo February 13, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    These directives apply to all officers, not just traffic division officers.

    However, prowl officers may sometimes call traffic officers, if they are available, to assist with the investigation.

    Motorcycles will be lumped with the RV group, as motorcycles are not included in the directive\'s definition of vulnerable road users, and the new codes look like they are specifically meant to differentiate between bicycles and peds and non-bicycles or peds.

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  • Sasha February 14, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Mr Cohen,

    Romeo Victor. Romeo Bravo. Problem solved.

    S

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  • L. Armstrong February 15, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Nice work Johnathan. A step in the right direction, indeed.

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