Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on July 16th, 2013 at 5:36 pm
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
As many people seemed to notice, last week was particularly thick with serious on-street collisions. We're continuing to track relevant parts of several cases. Here's the latest on four of them.
No criminal charge from SE Division and 148th: As KOIN reported yesterday, the Multnomah County District Attorney's office has declined to seek criminal penalties in the case of Neftali Cabrera-Escobar, 36, whose car struck and killed Brian Francis Kenny, 62, in April. The reason is that the DA determined that sun glare made it physically impossible for Cabrera-Escobar to have seen Kenny, and therefore that Cabrera-Escobar wouldn't be found guilty of a crime.
He did receive a traffic citation for careless driving resulting in the death of a vulnerable road user and remains liable for civil penalties.
It may seem strange that it's not illegal to drive a car at potentially fatal speed even when it's physically impossible to see where you're going. So we talked to Senior Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden to discuss the law.
"In order for there to be charges in the case of serious physical injury or death, you have to have recklessness," Snowden said. "When we typically file charges in connection with a case like that is when there's alcohol or other intoxicants involved, or obviously when there's very high speed … potentially even texting could rise to the level of gross negligence in certain circumstances. ... In order to sustain a criminal charge, we have to prove that someone consciously disregarded an unjustifiable risk of serious injury or death."
So what is and isn't an "unjustifiable risk"? Snowden allows that there's some room for interpretation, but said the only way to change practice in such situations would be to amend or add to Oregon's laws governing manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
"While it's a horrible tragedy, it just doesn't rise to the level of a criminal charge," she said.
Update 7/17: Snowden's colleague Chuck Sparks calls to note that Cabrera-Escobar "was at fault," shouldn't have been driving as quickly as he was into the sun, and did receive a civil citation (added above).
Crosswalks coming to SE
Milwaukie McLoughlin and 17th: Matthew Charles Casperson, 22, was still in critical condition Monday after being overtaken by a turning garbage truck as he rode across a wide crosswalk on his bike. ODOT and TriMet staff, however, say the intersection where he was injured will get a "substantial improvement for pedestrians and bicyclists" this November.
ODOT Transit and Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning contacted BikePortland Monday to spell out those planned changes, which will include pedestrian countdown timers for each crossing, "a new signal phasing so that the pedestrian crossing on McLoughlin no longer occurs at the same time as conflicting left turns from SE 17th Ave." and crosswalks at all four crossings, instead of the three the intersection has now. (One of the four is currently marked as "closed" by a permanent barrier.)
You can see a sketch of the planned new paint markings here, and a diagram showing the new signalization plan (including the future light rail line along the northeast corner of the intersection) here.
Citation issued for Division and 122nd: Police issued a citation Monday to Hector Perez, 34, who collided with a van and suffered critical but not fatal injuries after heading on his bike through stopped traffic. Perez rolled in front of the van as it proceeded in Division's left-turn lane, according to KOIN.
Benefit for Dave Collins: On a slightly happier note, co-workers of Dave Collins, who was injured last week while biking on Fremont, are organizing a benefit for his medical bills. "We will be meeting at Emmanuel Hospital at 4 p.m. to see Dave and then we'll be leading a bike parade ride to the Lost & Found on North Gay," writes Kyle Kautz, Collins' colleague at PDX Pedicab. "There will be drink specials for Dave, and Brock from Adventure Galley will be spinning records."
Get well soon, everyone.