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BTA will pursue vehicular homicide law in 2009

Posted by on June 6th, 2008 at 9:46 am

“Tim and I would have been married 50 years this April but I celebrated this anniversary
by myself because a dangerous driver ran him down on his bike.”
– Mary O’Donnell

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) announced yesterday that they will pursue a vehicular homicide law in the 2009 session of the Oregon State Legislature.

They plan to make a public announcement at a press conference on Monday (June 9) in the law offices of the attorneys representing the family of the late Tim O’Donnell — a 66 year-old Aloha resident who was killed while riding his bike on a rural road in Washington County last year.

Mary O’Donnell (Tim’s widow) will be on hand for the announcement.

A press release issued by the BTA states that they are seeking a new vehicular homicide law for Oregon, “to better protect roadway users by increasing penalties for drivers who cause deaths as a result of their habitual violation of traffic laws.” The BTA will hope to establish the law as a Class B Felony.

Oregon is one of only four states without a vehicular homicide law (the others are Alaska, Montana, and Arizona).

The woman who struck and killed Tim O’Donnell was driving with an Idaho driver’s license after her Oregon license was suspended for failing to appear in court on a ticket she received for driving without insurance.

The BTA also released some preliminary legal language of the proposed new law:

“Violation of traffic laws by a driver resulting in death to a person on Oregon’s roadways, streets or highways where the driver is driving with a Drivers’ License Suspended in Oregon or any other state, or is impaired as a result of the use of alcohol or drugs, or is driving without current Automobile Liability Insurance.”

In a statement issued through the BTA, Mary O’Donnell said that,

“Some drivers have been suspended multiple times and continue to drive. It is inexcusable and unacceptable for the state to continue to allow them to flaunt the law and to endanger everybody else who is using our roads including other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”

Here are the details of the press conference:

    Press Conference to Announce Vehicular Homicide Law Campaign
    10am – Monday, June 9th
    Swanson Thomas & Coon, Attorneys at Law (820 SW 2nd Avenue., Suite 200)

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Comments
  • Brian E June 6, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Will this apply towards scofflaw drivers who have never gotten a license?

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  • PoPo June 6, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Just for clarification, anyone driving in Oregon with a suspended Oregon license, even if they have a valid license from another state, is considered driving while suspended and can be cited for that if stopped by an officer. In the City of Portland, that person can also have their car towed. You can also have your car towed if you cannot prove to the officer that you have valid insurance.

    Indeed, lots of people drive even though they have no insurance or a valid license, but these things are usually only discovered when they are stopped by police for some other traffic infraction.

    This effort by the BTA is excellent. Thanks for your work!

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  • tonyt June 6, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Amen.

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  • Pete June 6, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Wish we could make it retroactive.

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  • Fred June 6, 2008 at 11:22 am

    While their ad it, let\’s ad while under the influence of using a cell phone, texting, applying make-up, or other electronic distractions.

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  • ralph June 6, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I\’d also like to see legislation to share license information between states. There\’s no way you should be able to cross the border and get a valid license while still under suspension here.

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  • Ashley June 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Thank you BTA for your work towards this.

    I second Brain\’s question-come come it doesn\’t included drivers who do not have licenses period? Does that not happen that often to warrant it?

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  • Russ June 6, 2008 at 11:32 am

    So if a law like this passes, I\’ll have to add a couple commas when I say: \”There are no real consequences for killing someone with your car unless you are drunk, leave the scene, or have a suspended license/no insurance.\”

    Adding the suspended license/insurance part should really move the bar in promoting safe driving.

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  • Matt Picio June 6, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    This is great news, and I hope that the BTA will pursue this objective with great vigor. Scott, Karl – go get \’em!

    I have every confidence that the BTA staff will work hard on this particular endeavor.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com June 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Mandatory sentence for habitual wild-n-crazy motor vehicle drivers? Ankle bracelet that sounds a LOUD, screeching, IRRITATING alarm when moving at more than 25 mph.

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  • G.A.R. June 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Ralph #6 is onto something. I thought we had a nationwide network for license suspensions and revocations. Shocking.

    It is ironic that she got a license in a state with a vehicular homicide law but chose to perpetrate the crime in one without.

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  • KTesh June 6, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    [QUOTE]Mandatory sentence for habitual wild-n-crazy motor vehicle drivers? Ankle bracelet that sounds a LOUD, screeching, IRRITATING alarm when moving at more than 25 mph.[/QUOTE]

    And anything over 5 mph over posted limits yields an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) to blow the car\’s electical system to hell.

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  • Landshark Pete June 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    A couple of cautionary points:

    Oregon may be one of only four states that doesn\’t have a statute entitled \”Vehicular Homicide,\” but Oregon\’s Negligent Homicide and Manslaughter statutes are substantively similar to some of the vehicluar homicide statutes cited in Jonathan\’s Wikipedia link. We probably aren\’t so far out of step with the rest of the nation as the titles of the laws might make it seem.

    The \”preliminary legal language\” of the draft legislation needs to be refined. For example, if I run a red light and get run over by an uninsured driver, has the driver committed vehicular homicide? You could read the preliminary language to say that he did commit vehicular homicide.

    On the other hand, if a fully insured and non-impaired driver runs a red light and kills me, has the driver committed vehicular homicide? Not according to the draft language. Depending on the evidence, it might not even amount to a provable Negligent Homicide under current law, but it would make a pretty good civil suit.

    I\’m not arguing against a new statute; I\’m just arguing that the concept and the arguments need some work.

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  • Russ June 6, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Pete, you would probably have some good points if it wasn\’t already established that no one is going to be prosecuted for killing a bicyclist with their car anyway unless they really make it obvious they were trying to.

    Just running a red light isn\’t gonna do, law or no law.

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  • Landshark Pete June 7, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    At the bottom of this post I\’ve suggested some alternative language to the current draft. It has two operative elements:

    First, the driver must commit a moving violation (e.g. runs a red light) that causes the death of another person. It eliminates the situation in which the cyclist runs a red light and gets killed by an uninsured driver.

    Second, it restricts the application of the law. Not only does the driver need to commit a moving violation that causes a death, but the driver must also be under the influence, suspended, or uninsured. If the driver \”merely\” kills someone as a result of running a red light, but is full insured, not drunk, and not suspended, then it isn\’t vehicular homicide.

    Suggested alternative:

    \”A driver, who is under the influence of an intoxicant or who is operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license or who is driving uninsured, commits the crime of vehicular homicide if the driver commits a moving traffic offense that causes the death of another person.\”

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  • gb June 9, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I\’m all for any law that can be supported, and will be supported. At the same time, I\’m all for there being some consequences for the bicyclist too.

    For example, if the bicyclist who is hit has a history of not stopping at stop signs, running red lights, and generally acting as if the law applies to everyone but them, the law should find the cyclist equally at fault.

    There should also be some level of intelligence expected of both parties. Even if the law is meant to protect my rights as a cyclist, I must also concede that possibly something bigger or faster than I may cause injury or death, and I should know enough to get out of the way.

    You must admit that if the motorist ran as many stop signs and red lights as bicyclists do, there would be a lot more roadkill out there, and deservedly so.

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