Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 14th, 2010 at 11:50 am
The Oregonian reported yesterday the City of Portland will pay $338,477 to settle a distracted driving lawsuit. The suit involved a police officer who glanced at his on-board computer and did not see an 80-year old woman walking across the street in front of his car. The woman suffered serious injuries and spent five days in the hospital.
In light of the settlement, The Oregonian reports that the city's risk management supervisors have "asked the police bureau to examine its training to ensure other officers aren't distracted by the in-car computers."
This case brings to light the larger issue of distracted driving, which has a major impact on the safety of roadway users who are not encased in steel. In January 2010, Oregon enacted a new law that banned the use of "mobile communication devices" while operating a motor vehicle (ORS 811.507). Not only does that law include 11 exceptions, but it only applies to "two-way communication devices." In this case it appears the officer was glancing at a computer screen.
Even so, official police policy created in response to Oregon's new law says that officers should not operate their on-board computer while driving. But, similar to the state law, there's an exception for when officers are "conducting police business."
This case might give momentum to people who want to strengthen Oregon's cell phone law to have it apply to the more general infraction of "distracted driving."
Read more about this story and about the issue in general in The Oregonian.