Traffic safety specialists at PDOT are working with Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams, the Portland City Council, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition to beef up their legal toolkit with new laws that will make it easier to sanction motorists who are involved in fatal traffic crashes.
PDOT Traffic Investigations Manager Mark Lear said they are “currently reviewing potential options” to introduce bills similar to Washington state’s vehicular homicide laws in their legislative package for the upcoming session.
According to Lear, last Friday he met with city transportation planners and city lobbyists to discuss this issue. Lear also said that the main impetus for considering a new vehicular homicide law (or something similar) came from the Police, who urged the city to give them the ability to charge people with something less than manslaughter but more severe than merely a traffic ticket.
This issue has gained a lot of energy in the community due to several recent crashes involving bicyclists and motorists in surrounding cities that have resulted in only a traffic ticket for the motorist.
On Friday there was another fatal crash on a rural road in Washington County that is very popular with cyclists. Like a previous incident in Beaverton, the motorist claimed the sun was in her eyes and recent reports state that no charges have been filed.
These crashes have cyclists feeling helpless and in danger and they are eager to see something done. A thread in the Portland Bike Forums is full of friends of Mike Kalan (the victim of Friday’s crash) and concerned cyclists are sharing their feelings and their desire to see stiffer laws in the future. One contributor and friend of Mike’s had this to say:
“My husband I are avid cyclists/racers in Chicago and since coming to Portland and talking to Mike, we are considering a move for a better lifestyle. After losing Mike and reading of some other recent “accidents” we are concerned about saftey. What is Portland doing to prevent these losses of life?”
Although these crashes have occured outside of Portland, the issue is definitely “on the radar” of PDOT Traffic Safety specialists and I’m confident that they will get a vehicular homicide law passed during the next legislative session.
I should have an update from PDOT soon about this and the other bicycle safety related bills they plan to introduce in 2007.
In the meantime, it’s up to us in the community to create awareness around driving and riding more attentively. The Traffic Safety email list is full of positive energy, good ideas and opportunities to get involved. If you’re interested in this issue, please join the list and be a part of the solution.