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TriMet tragedy, like Sparling case, shows gap in Oregon law

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 20th, 2010 at 10:17 am

"This is precisely why the BTA, WPC [Willamette Pedestrian Coalition] and I are calling for a vehicular homicide law. There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn't do it on purpose.
-- Ray Thomas, lawyer

Yesterday, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks released a report (PDF here) on the fatal TriMet bus crash that killed two people and injured three others while they walked across a street in downtown Portland on April 24th.

According to the report, the lead police investigator found that "the driver was entirely at fault in causing this crash," but, after looking at all the evidence and hearing from 33 witnesses, the Grand Jury opted to not bring criminal charges against bus operator Sandy Day.

On the surface, this seems outrageous: Ms. Day drove her vehicle through a crosswalk without being able to see whether or not someone was in it (due to a blind spot). While Ms. Day clearly did not have criminal intentions, she violated a traffic law and her negligence to clear her blind spots resulted in the death of two people.

For those that remember the tragic case of Tracey Sparling -- the young woman who was run over and killed in October 2007 by a man driving a cement truck (Timothy Wiles) while she sat on her bicycle in the bike lane -- this all sounds very familiar.

Like the TriMet case, the Sparling case also involved a large commercial vehicle operator who turned into a vulnerable road user who was using the roadway legally. In both cases, blind spots prevented the vehicle operators from seeing what they were turning into. Also similar to the Sparling case, the TriMet bus operator will be cited for a traffic violation. In the Sparling case, the man operating the truck was cited for violation of ORS 811.050 ("failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane") and in the TriMet case, the bus operator will be given five citations for violation of 801.608, Oregon's "vulnerable user of a public way" statute.

Both of these cases ended with innocent road users being killed, but criminal charges were not brought against the motor vehicle operators for the same reasons in both situations.

Deputy DA Chuck Sparks.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Yesterday I talked with DA Chuck Sparks who wrote the reports for both cases. He said, while the "dynamics" and context of the two crashes are obviously different, the basic legal facts are the same.

According to Oregon law, in order to find someone criminally negligent, the person must knowingly have taken an "unjustifiable risk... of such nature and degree that the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation."

In other words, the state will not prosecute someone unless evidence can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person acted with criminal negligence. What both of these cases illustrate is fatally hitting someone with a vehicle due to a blind spot does not rise to the high standard for criminal culpability.

If someone's act does not rise the the high threshold required for gross negligence, the only other legal tool available is a misdemeanor traffic citation.

That gap is something Portland lawyer and Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) legislative committee member Ray Thomas has been working to close. He told me yesterday that the DA ruling in the TriMet case is a perfect example of why he's working on a new vehicular homicide law for Oregon:

"This is precisely why the BTA, WPC [Willamette Pedestrian Coalition] and I are calling for a vehicular homicide law. There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn't do it on purpose."

Thomas feels that while the vulnerable user statute is helpful, it's strength is limited because it only comes with civil -- not criminal -- penalties (not to mention violators can choose to opt out of the community service and other provisions by simply paying a $12,500 fine).

Thomas is working with the BTA and the WPC to craft a new vehicular homicide law for the 2011 legislative session that would create a culpability level below gross negligence in cases where a traffic violation is committed and a fatality is involved. Nine other states have already passed laws like this and Thomas feels Oregon should follow suit.

If Thomas' proposal was already law in Oregon, Sandy Day and Timothy Wiles would be eligible to recieve a Class A Misdemeanor which could carry possible probation and up to one year in jail.

In a paper making his case for a tougher vehicular homicide law in Oregon, Thomas writes, "the status quo is unacceptable":

"...few personal choices carry a greater potential for death and destruction to non-motorized road users than driving a several thousand pound motor vehicle at typical roadway speeds. While sending every driver who makes a fatal error of judgment to prison is not a realistic solution, the time has come to recognize that driving is a dangerous privilege and serious consequences should follow any time a needless death occurs because a driver failed to drive carefully."


CORRECTION NOTE: This story contained a major reporting error as originally published. I wrote that the DA's office had cleared Ms. Day of criminal negligence. That's not at all what the report was about. It was a grand jury that reached the decision. I have modified the story to reflect this and I regret any confusion caused by the error.

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Comments
  • pixiestyx May 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

    TriMet needs to eliminate or revise it's policy of allowing buses to make unscheduled stops upon request for elderly passengers after 8 p.m. (noted in the PDF linked above), particularly when such stops would then require an illegal turn in order for the driver to continue on route.

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  • pat h May 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I hope the families file a civil suit against the driver.

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  • are May 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

    many thanks to ray and to BTA for continuing to pursue this.

    the pushback from prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers has been that you/they don't want to criminalize ordinary negligence, and somehow they are not quite hearing the argument that it is not ordinary if you are wielding a dangerous weapon. the vehicular homicide bill offers a middle ground: rather than trying to send people to prison, get them involved in the probation system (that is, get their attention), and then bring down the hammer if they continue to screw up.

    one of the other pieces to this puzzle is the decriminalization some years back of driving while suspended . . .

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  • pat h May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Also, this is a great write-up, Jonathan. It is much better than the O's coverage. You cover the legal arguments very concisely. Thanks.

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  • Perry May 20, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I have noticed several Tri-Met buses making right turns with the entry door open - apparently in an attempt to improve visibility in the last few days. Never noticed them doing that before this week.

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  • gabriel amadeus May 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Oregon, where busting a Caprice in someone's ass is legal, whereas a cap is not.

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  • Vance Longwell May 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I find myself in agreement with the article here. Nice one J. But I do think it's important to maintain a distinction between negligence and an accident. I also think the Sparling analogy isn't one. Apples and oranges, yo. If Sparling wasn't required by law to be where she was...this fact was a factor every bit as much as any negligence on the part of the operator. The peds in this other tragedy were where they should have been, by the standard of common sense, and the law, both; and this is totally on the operator.

    'Accident' means not on purpose. With 'negligence', purpose never enters into the equation. Plus too the added factor of these operators being professionals, and in extraordinarily difficult-to-operate vehicles - I mean, this lady isn't even going to lose her license! C'mon powers-that-be, she killed folks. I heard a judge say once, "Justified or not, somebody died on that day, and some one is going to jail for it, period.", harsh but oh so just. Lady rolled the dice every time she sat down in the operators seat, a risk she took willingly, presumably because the perceived benefit outweighed the risk. Well, dawgonit, time to pay the piper, yo.

    Oh, and there's a typo in paragraph one. "The", I think is supposed to be, "They". I know how you hate that Mr. Maus.

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  • Roma May 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Not a single bicycle commuting day goes by where I don't see a Tri-Met bus run a red light or buzz me 6" away at 40mph. City buses scare me way more than the average driver.

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  • BURR May 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

    TriMet drivers speed all the time too, and there never seem to be any consequences.

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  • bruce May 20, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I have been wondering, especially lately, why we, as a society seem to have such a need for civil punishment. What would criminal charges against this TriMet driver accomplish? Would jail time or a huge judgement against her prevent all future bus accidents? Would it make the roads safer? Different topic but somewhat relevant: how does dragging BP up to Capitol Hill and wagging congressional fingers at CEOs address our dependene on oil? What is the role of govt?
    We are complicit in all of this stuff. Accidents happen, we all do stupid stuff from time to time. Often we end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I really want to understand what we need. Justice is a very complicated set of issues and perspectives. Does anyone really believe that anyone involved in the horrid and tragic bus fatalities is not in some sort of purgatorial place now and forever?

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  • Dave May 20, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I was under the impression that this was actually put before a grand jury, which returned a no true bill verdict. That is very different than a DA deciding nothing criminal took place, and declining to pursue it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      As Dave pointed out above, I made a significant error in my original story. Here's the note I just added:

      This story contained a major reporting error as originally published. I wrote that the DA's office had cleared Ms. Day of criminal negligence. That's not at all what the report was about. It was a grand jury that reached the decision. I have modified the story to reflect this and I regret any confusion caused by the error.

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  • jim May 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

    The way Portland works is she will probably get paid to stay home for a long time, sometime in the future she would sue the city for millions which the city would pay her without a fight...

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  • Case May 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I wonder what the fine is for each count of ORS 801.608? Similar to a bike running a stop sign? Anyone?

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  • Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 11:56 am

    The key word is CRIMINAL.
    No CRIMINAL negligence.
    Doesn't mean they weren't negligent.
    Doesn't get them off a civil case.
    But the law is very specific when it comes to these definitions.

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  • Spiffy May 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    since she "unknowingly" forgot to check her blind spot she only gets a ticket?

    like "pat h #2" says, I'm sure the families will file their own suit... however I don't think that will result in harsh penalties (death) against the driver...

    the driver deserves to die... I don't care how you kill somebody, it proves that you're negligent and dangerous and should be removed from society so you don't do it again...

    if that was one of my kids that got run over and killed you can bet the driver wouldn't live that long...

    it's these lack of responsibility that makes it so dangerous to be in society... why not run over a few people if you'll only get a ticket? makes me want to sit near the corner of my enemies and wait until they come out of the house so I can unknowingly forget to check to see if the street is clear before I run them over...

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  • Toby May 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Does the new proposed law/legislation(whatever...)only apply when there is a fatality? The case I'm thinking of is the one that happened on interstate where a woman pulled out of a parking lot after a series of erratic maneuvers and ran into/over a cyclist. The cyclist was injured but thankfully not killed. I don't remember how that turned out, but I think she got off pretty light. Do you think that if this passed she would have done jail time? I think she already had her license pulled, so they couldn't do that...

    Vance, I oddly agree with most of what you say but I do disagree with the part about Sparling being in the bike lane. If it wasn't there, she probably would have been squeezed along the side the truck anyway because that what most cyclist tend to do. I don't remember who got there first, but one of two things should have been done differently for a different outcome in my opinion. She should have taken the lane or assumed the truck was going to turn in front of her paid more attention. While I'm not blaming her, I'm just a firm believer in taking responsibility for one's own actions. Laws and regulation can only go so far in securing your safety. In the end, you have to look out for yourself. That's the approach that's saved my bacon many times and many of my closest calls are when I'm not paying attention or get complaisant.

    Oh, and Vance, typo in paragraph two. "Plus too.." is redundant. I think it should be "Plus the..." But then I'm no cunning linguist ;-)

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  • Case May 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Well stated Vance. While I don't know if prison should be mandated in this situation I do believe she should be subject to court supervised probation and loss of her driving privileges for an extended period of time. She killed two people and injured three more by not paying attention to her job and she's getting tickets?!? Also, just had a bus buzz me and yell through the loud speaker that I wasn't allowed to pass him, though I signaled and executed a legal lane change in order to do so. Whatever though, I should always yield to them because they're big and I'm small.

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  • Case May 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Hate to quote a book on you Spiffy but "Many that live deserve death, and some die that deserve life, can you give it to them?"

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  • Elliot May 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Anonymous #14 -

    Please explain to me how being breaking a law while being negligent doesn't constitute being criminally negligent. Is breaking the law not a crime?

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  • Marcus Griffith May 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    From what I understand about both TriMet's and C-TRAN's courtesy stop policy; the courtesy stop is only supposed to be done when it is safe to do so. I have been a many of bus when a bus driver declined a courtesy stop at an intersection because of the left-turn/left lane issue. Most bus drivers are exceptionally safe drivers and highly aware of both cyclists and peds.

    Why this driver decided it was safe to allow a courtesy stop that forced her to make a left turn from the wrong lane is beyond me.

    The issue at fault is not the courtesy stop policy, but the driver's flawed decision making procedure that resulted in the death and serious injury of others.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    There is a big difference between infractions and criminal violations.

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  • C. May 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    "'Justified or not, somebody died on that day, and some one is going to jail for it, period.'"

    "the driver deserves to die... I don't care how you kill somebody, it proves that you're negligent and dangerous and should be removed from society so you don't do it again"

    :/

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  • Vance Longwell May 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Bruce #10 - Hear, hear, sir. You make me kinda wish I could reword my own comment. Very well stated, whether one accepts your position or not. Tremendously earnest. Good show!

    Toby #16 - I hear ya man. Shame on me for taking advantage and whipping bike-lanes again. I'm starting to sound like a 'birther' on that whole thing. My bad. But dawgonit I do so hate me some bike-infrastructure.

    Anyway. I was a messenger here for 12 years. I have covered some ground. As you approach the intersection where Sparling lost her life a bicycle-operator has a tremendously good vantage point. The simple fact of the matter is that if you view this intersection from the top of the steep little hill directly south of it, any fool can SEE that's the LAST place you wanna be. I don't mean to imply that if you don't agree with that you are a fool, I guess, but it's painful obvious when actually sitting there. Personally, I split the lane and position myself to the left of any vehicle at the actual intersection. There's two straight-through lanes there, one leading to 405 the other continues on 14th. Being in the position I stated completely avoids the right-hook, which existed prior to bike-lanes, and affords motorists continuing on to 405 a clear view of you; and your subsequent intent. No one in three lanes of traffic can see somebody on a bike in that bike-lane. Forget my hostility for a moment, it's just a piss-poor spot for a bike lane.

    I hate pulling motorist lanes, but if they treated that right they'd have put the bike-lane out in the middle of the road, and eliminated a motorist lane. From the eastern most curb, west to the western most curve, it should have gone thus: Right-turn motorist lane, bike-lane, I-405 folks could then share the remaining lane for straight-throughs, and the left onto W Burnside.

    Really, I promise. All bike-lane hate aside, it'd be both easy, and more adherent to some common-darn-sense, to stripe that thing this way.

    'Plus-too' is old-English, and just part of my character. I know it's not correct. I wasn't picking on J, seriously, he hates typos.

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  • Peter Noone May 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Am I the only one that thinks referring to a vehicle as a "weapon" is a disservice to the cause?

    I fully support the idea that causing someone's death should result in consequences more severe than a traffic citation, but calling a vehicle a "weapon" is semantically incorrect and inflammatory. What useful purpose does it serve?

    Of course a vehicle can be used as a weapon, but so can just about any other inanimate object.

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  • Aaronf May 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Well stated Bruce!

    I think that there is only a gap in current law if we determine that losing your job, being subject to a civil suit, and living with accidentally killing two people is not enough punishment for a crime of inattention.

    I'm not so sure that is a given conclusion.

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  • are May 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    weapon. oh, was that me? okay, how about "dangerous instrumentality"?

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  • Vance Longwell May 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Peter Noone #24 -

    "Am I the only one that thinks referring to a vehicle as a "weapon" is a disservice to the cause?"

    Nope. You can count me in. Purveyor of hyperbolic rhetoric that I am.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 20, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Moving on to reducing the incidence (or chance) of these large vehicle on vulnerable road user crashes...what has Oregon or Portland done to make the design of large trucks to minimize the ease by which pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, [and small cars] get pulled under the rear wheels of trucks - in right or left hook scenarios?

    Communities like Abu Dhabi [and others] have almost all of their large trucks outfitted with side bumpers to block bicyclists from the wheel area. And this is not even a bike town (yet).

    http://www.autosafetyexpert.com/Assets/Docs/article-underride.pdf

    Where has the discussion of minimizing right hooks moved yet in Portland in the last 2 years? Has the W. Burnside intersection at Ringlers been fixed yet (speaking of Wiles)? Have blackspot mirrors on traffic signals been demonstrated yet? These are all tools that aid in minimizing operator errors ... regarding 'blind spots'.

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/05/13/black-spot-mirrors-save-lives-in-amsterdam/

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  • Marcus Griffith May 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Todd: Getting some local bike news before going to bed? Its what, almost one in Abu Dhabi right now?

    Hope you bring back some good bike-improvement pics..

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  • q`Tzal May 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    24, vehicle as a weapon:

    +1; it serves only to marginalize victims of auto crashes. While the page List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year shows that a personally large number, 10's of thousands, of people are killed by autos every year, as a percentage of the whole population the number is rather small year by year. Whats more is that the auto caused deaths in which the auto can truly be considered as a weapon are difficult to quantize. Until a "critical mass" of the driving public has been run over themselves, or directly knows someone who has been, while walking "vehicles as a weapon" only serves as proof to "THEM" that "WE" are the lunatic fringe.

    I think the grand jury decision only backs that up: it shows what we as a society have come to accept as excusable behavior while driving and acceptable loss of life.
    Shame on us.

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  • Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Understand that a grand jury only hears from the District Attorney, there is no defense presented. The DA presents the facts of the case and hopes for an indictment on those facts allowing a criminal case to go forward.

    Which means that the DA could not make the case for CRIMINAL negligence to the grand jury.

    Gross negligence
    Definition
    : negligence that is marked by conduct that presents an unreasonably high degree of risk to others and by a failure to exercise even the slightest care in protecting them from it and that is sometimes associated with conscious and willful indifference to their rights

    Criminal negligence
    Definition
    : a gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person that is manifest in a failure to protect others from a risk (as of death) deriving from one's conduct and that renders one criminally liable
    compare gross negligence in this entry

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  • Opus the Poet May 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Not only is a motor vehicle a weapon, but it is a WMD by the definitions in the Geneva Accords. To wit multiple people killed in a single incident in Portland, multiple people killed and injured in a single incident in Quebec over the weekend, multiple people killed and injured in a single incident in Costa Rica last month... In the Quebec incident the only reason all 6 riders weren't killed is at some point during the incident the vehicle was damaged to the point that it stopped running and the last 3 were hit at a reduced speed. The driver never altered course or applied the brakes until the vehicle stopped running. So, yes motor vehicles are not just weapons, they're WMDs that we use for transportation.

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  • Jackattak May 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I don't want the woman to face jail time.

    I want her privilege to drive taken away for a year and I want her commercial driver's license permanently revoked.

    When these things are allowed to continue with nothing more than a traffic ticket being issued, there is something desperately wrong with the system.

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  • Jackattak May 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    And I hope the families of the deceased sue the crap out of Trimet.

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  • kitten May 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I do not see the point in sending the driver to jail. Are we to believe that she would repeat said offense? ...that others will take note of a legal void?
    What then is the point of making this more punitive. I can not imagine the driver intentionally killing these or other people. so what is the point of rueinng her life, just as she unintentionally that of the survivors?
    There are consequences, but for normal people like the diver of the bus, let it be weight of guilt sufficient to give pause.

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  • pat h May 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Listen to the 911 calls if you want to cry:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/05/9-1-1_calls_chaos_heartbreak_r.html

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  • kitten May 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    might add, if anything it is the failure of the design of the bus and trimet training as well to be designed in such a way as to prevent the likelihood of said event. Dangerously close to "guns dont kill people, people do" argument, but here, the device is not intended to destroy life, but protect it. failure to design and implement device in such a way is the failure.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    kitten,

    do you think it would help compel TriMet and other commercial operators to improve their equipment and training if we had a criminal justice system that could impose more serious legal consequences when these tragic events happen?

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  • k. May 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    There's got to be room for lenience when there is no criminal negligence. If this bus driver took a reasonable amount of caution, which it sounds like she did, why ruin her life on top off the people who tragically lost their lives. It's not going to solve anything, and it's not going to encourage other drivers to be more careful. Today's society has gotten so jacked up on retribution for things that I think we've lost our humanity. Why don't we start stoning law breakers again, that'd teach em right? For chrise sake, I'd like to think of ourselves as a compassionate civilization, but I think we're loosing ground there.

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  • matt picio May 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Vance (#7) - That's speculative. Tracey Sparling may have stayed in the bike lane regardless of the law requiring her to. No one knows, except perhaps her family. I think what's far more a factor is that the safety equipment on trucks is generally minimal at best, and the licensing requirements for motorized vehicles are substandard. Even more a factor is the societal attitude that "cars" are basically harmless - reinforced by the fact that it takes only a few pounds of force to propel them, and nearly no effort to stop them. I'd wager that the roads were safer before the advent of power steering and power brakes, when drivers appreciated the effort involved with a given mass.

    Tracey Sparling's aunt, Susie Kubota has been pushing for changes to registration and licensing, as well as the vehicular homicide law. There needs to be a cultural change in this country - too many people regard driving as a birthright, and too many places have no other effective options to owning a car. And there needs to be something done about commercial vehicles, either to improve visibility or driver awareness, because especially in urban environments there is too much going on around the driver to retain complete situational awareness.

    Agreed on all points other than the bike lane requirement, though - I think that's right on.

    BURR (#9) - There's an easy solution for that. Charge the Tri-Met execs and managers instead (or alongside) the drivers. Drivers are beholden to the all-important schedule, and the institutional bias contributes to the behavior everyone sees.

    To be fair, though, Tri-Met has had 30 fatalities in 40 years. That's an excellent safety record when you consider the number of vehicle-miles traveled.

    jim (#12) - This woman may get sued, and have to have a long, protracted court battle. most drivers never recover emotionally from a tragedy like this, she may never work again because the job may be too stressful now. Regardless of fault, or blame, the lives of everyone involved and many of their loved ones will never be the same again. It's really easy to criticize this when you're not the one paying the metaphorical cost. (yes, I know that if she sues the city and the city pays, that you'll be paying a very meager part of the monetary cost)

    Spiffy (#15) - as far as I'm concerned the only people who "deserve" to die are those who kill maliciously. Should she be held responsible? Of course, but what purpose will her death serve? The people who cause these tragedies don't live in a vacuum, and even if they deserve consequences, the spouses and children and relatives of these people do not. None of this exists on its own, it's all interrelated.

    Elliot (#19) - The key word is "criminally", you have to prove intent.

    Jackattack (#35) - I do too, but only if they can take the money from the General Manager and 1 or 2 levels below him. Oh, and the previous 3 GMs and those below them. And those in the legislature who decided to make Tri-Met a public/private entity, and decided its funding. The whole system promotes drivers cutting corners to meet their schedule. Until that gets fixed, these issues will continue. I have a feeling most of close calls don't result in fatalities because the general public gives buses a wide berth.

    Jonathan (#39) - My answer: No, because said system carries little or no consequences for those at the top who determine driver incentives, driver discipline, equipment purchases, and route scheduling.

    k (#40) - agreed, but there also needs to be consequences for carelessness, both for the individual and the institution. We wouldn't let someone wave around a chainsaw or a pistol, why do we let them do it with a 30-ton bus? See my prior comments in this post.

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  • are May 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    it is not quite true that criminal negligence requires "intent." you have to intend to undertake an action with reckless disregard for likely harm to others. like turning left into a pedestrian crosswalk during the "walk" signal phase without being able to see whether there is anyone walking. the fact that the grand jury would not indict does not mean that the prosecutor could not prosecute. he is choosing not to, probably based on a calculation that a jury would not convict. the vehicular homicide statute would lower the bar here a little, but the cultural shift might take longer . . .

    however, i acknowledge that my earlier use of the word "weapon" does connote "intent" in a more straightforward sense, and i acknowledge that although i perceive nearly every motor vehicle i encounter on the road as at least a potential threat, the word "weapon" does not contribute much to working toward the eventual cultural shift, as it tends to raise hackles . . .

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  • Steve B. May 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I think everyone, including folks who drive often, could get behind making our roads safer. The easiest thing we could do right now to reduce roadway fatalities is to bring automobile speeds down.

    If hit at 40mph, 90% of people walking are killed, at 30mph, 20% die, at 20mph, 3% will not survive.

    Faced with this evidence, anyone arguing in favour of speed looks as if they are confessing to eating babies. It is hard to find anyone who objects to 20mph zones. Even motoring organisations such as the AA and the RAC favour them in many residential streets

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jul/10/portsmouth-20mph-speed-limit

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  • Steve B. May 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Let's get Portland the power to continue many years of leadership in traffic calming by allowing control of it's own speed limits.

    Does anyone know if it requires a legislative change to regain local speed limit control, or is it a decision ODOT can make alone?

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  • Joe R. May 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I feel truly sorry for the victims, their families and the bus operator. This can't be easy for anyone to deal with. But we can't continue with the current system that considers these tragic results as regular routine. We need to set a goal of zero fatalities for our transportation and do what's needed to make it that safe.

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  • Spiffy May 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Jackattak has a good punishment, revoke the commercial license for life so that they are never able to get behind the wheel of a bus again...

    however, that won't stop them from driving a motor home...

    I say revoke the driving privilege permanently so they can never kill with a vehicle again...

    in hind-sight it does seem a little extreme to get death for this (or for walking down a sidewalk)...

    since in this case the driver would not have killed anybody if they weren't driving I think taking away driving would fix the issue... and if not then bump up the penalty next time...

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  • esther May 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Before you judge this woman read the entire grand jury report. Watch this busdriver's little video explaining what happened.

    http://danbusdriverman.blogspot.com/2010/05/trimet-confidential-report-on-accident.html

    Haven't we all made errors while driving or riding our bikes. This woman had the misfortune to make her error in the path of innocent people. If I make a lane change and miss seeing someone in my blind spot on the freeway and they swerve and avoid me, should I go to jail but if they don't avoid me and we have a crash should I be jailed?

    This was a horrible tragedy and I don't think this bus driver's life will ever be the same. I work in a profession where one little mistake can cost a life and I can imagine how she feels. Any of use who drive cars could be in the same position as she is.

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  • Opus the Poet May 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Changing lanes while neglecting to check your blind spot is orders of magnitude different from this case. In this case the driver turned and hit a group of people with the front of the bus. When driving you are not allowed to hit cars, pedestrians, bicycles... that are in front of your vehicle. In this case the pedestrians had the right of way and had been in the crosswalk for nearly 10 seconds before they were hit, not some kids jumping in front of a moving bus in the middle of the block.

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  • NecroPsyChroNauTron May 22, 2010 at 6:00 am

    And as usual we have the blood thirsty assholes screaming for her head as if it would solve something, or prevent future accidents.
    Not to mention you'd never see such vehemence in a accident caused by a pedestrian or cyclist.
    Car as weapon? Such a moronic argument. I can use a window as a weapon, and rightullfy kill someone by throwing them through one. I can use a pencil, cigarettes, air in a syringe.
    A weapon is a weapon because A) I intentionally use it as such, or B) It has no other purpose. But hey, say whatever to villify the other huh? Whatever it takes to get your blood pumping and lusting for additional murder eh?
    Me and my girlfriend had a nasty accident a while back while wrestling around where she kicked my feet out from under me, which caused my weight to pitch forward and fall on top of her, smashing her head into the corner of a wall. She was fine, but it could have potentially been very serious, even fatal.
    I ran into a business sign trying to avoid a contsrucution hole just a couple of weeks ago.
    It's so heartwarming to know if it had been a person, and they had fallen and hit their head, there would be a bunch of lowlifes insisting I lose my life or livelihood for daring to be human and prone to error.
    Oh wait, probably not huh? Death is only suitable for those unlike you.
    It ridiculous to have this attitude towards a public transit employee unless they are shown to be unquestionably negligent.
    Comment #11 sums it up well.
    Bloodlust does not promote bicycles, and this sentiment is the antithesis of winning over automobile users with the merits of cycling.

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  • Loren May 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Great article. I have to only agree here, driving is not taken very seriously here in the US, and having harsher "whoops I killed someone" laws are needed. I wonder if this hole is used for drunk drivers as well? Just the other day I was almost plowed into by a girl on her cell phone speeding through the clackamas town center parking lot. I felt like rolling up, taking her cell phone and chucking it across the lot. Whoops, I killed your phone.

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  • esther May 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

    sorry for the all lower case but i'm typing with one hand arm in sling due to a fractured clavicle.

    i was riding along 11th ave and crossed the trolley tracks at too oblique an angle and down i went.

    i made an error in judgment and took down a cyclist. OFF WITH MY HEAD!

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