Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 31st, 2011 at 12:57 pm
"I gotta' tell you, not only do we have impatient drivers, we have distracted pedestrians.... Up in Portland, there's people up that just step right out saying, 'I gotta' right to step out in front of your truck.'"
— Rep. Michael Schaufler
Senate Bill 424, which would clarify and strengthen Oregon's crosswalk law, is under fire in Salem as lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee threaten to strip the safety provisions from it entirely.
Willamette Pedestrian Coalition executive director Steph Routh says some members of the committee have made it clear that instead of passing the bill with the new crosswalk safety language, they'd like to cut those provisions and leave only a firefighter fundraising provision that was added to the bill after it was introduced (that provision has to do with the annual "Fill the boot" fundraiser where firefighters stand on the side of the road and ask for donations).
Routh describes the safety language as, "Once any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, or crutch moves onto the roadway with the intent to proceed, the responsibility for a motorist to stop would be triggered." The goal of the bill is to clarify the existing law so that the person's body itself doesn't have to be placed in the roadway to trigger the law.
The bill got a hearing last week and is up for a possible vote in committee later today.
At the hearing last week, State Representative and committee member Michael Schaufler (D- Happy Valley) said he doesn't oppose the bill, but he warned that it creates a false sense of security. At one point in the hearing, Rep. Schaufler shared animated and forceful comments about the behavior of "distracted pedestrians" in Portland.
Here's the brief audio of his comments followed by the text:
"I gotta' tell you, not only do we have impatient drivers, we have distracted pedestrians. We have pedestrians that aren't using common sense, who use the crosswalk as some kind of false sense of security... Up in Portland, there's people up that just step right out saying, 'I gotta' right to step out in front of your truck.' Well, that's just fine but gravity is not forgiving!... The false sense of security we're giving people with this I think causes a lot of these accidents and then they blame it on an impatient driver... Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't... I think we need to stress that people have to look both ways and tons of metal won't stop on a dime!"
It's worth noting that Schaufler might have gotten his "distracted pedestrian" idea from some authoritative sources. Back in January, a group called the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) said "aggressive pedestrians" that are, "stepping out in the street and getting hit" were in part to blame for a major uptick in fatal crashes involving people walking on roads. Even ODOT's own chief of safety, Troy Costales said, "We are familiar with aggressive drivers; we now have aggressive pedestrians."
SB 424 already passed the Senate and is up for a possible vote in the House Judiciary Committee today.
UPDATE, 1:15 pm: SB 424 has passed out of the House Judiciary with a "do pass" recommendation. It is now headed for full House vote. We'll keep you posted.
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