Vulnerable Roadway Users bill gets hearing Monday

Posted by on April 19th, 2007 at 10:04 am

fixie bill in Salem

The BTA’s “Vulnerable Roadway Users” bill (HB 3314 )will get a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday (4/23).

I spoke with Scott Bricker about the bill this morning before he left for another day working the halls of Salem.

According to Bricker, the bill targets vehicle operators that currently only have to pay a nominal fine if they hit and/or kill a vulnerable roadway user (which includes bicyclists, peds, and others) while driving carelessly,

“What we’re proposing is a severely aggravated penalty ($12,000 fine and a one-year license suspension) that would hopefully encourage people to opt for the community service option.”

That option would include a commitment of 4 hours a week of community service for an entire year and a physical.

Another interesting part of this bill is a slight change since it was first conceived. The bill now applies to all vehicle operators, including bicyclists. Bricker said that amendment came out of discussions with the Police Bureau,

“The reality is that 99 out of 100 of these would probably be motorists, but I’m all for including bicyclists in this.”

In these days of overcrowded jails, Bricker says a bill that seeks to lock-up non-criminals would have a tough time in Salem,

“We’ve heard from the legislature this session that they don’t want to put people in jail that don’t have criminal intent. I studied criminal justice and I think there are ways to create safer, just communities without throwing people in jail.”

Bricker realizes that this bill is a “significant change in the system” and because it, “addresses something that everyone does (drives carelessly)” will take some work to move forward.

And the clock is ticking. All bills must be out of their originating committees by the end of the month. Stay tuned for developments and a report from Monday’s hearing.


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Garlynn
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Well, as long as the intent is clear — that if you injure or kill a bicyclist or pedestrian with your vehicle, you are a criminal — I suppose that sending people off to jail isn’t necessarily the final solution to the problem. That just will make them even worse criminals. You send people to college to make them professionals. You send people to jail to make them criminals.

No, a hefty fine and some re-education, and suspension of the driver’s license, would seem to be the appropriate penalties, as well as community service. Maybe something about restitution to the victim’s family might be nice, too. Washing their dishes for a year? Cleaning their bike chains? I dunno, you catch my drift.

Too bad about no Idaho-style bill this session. I hope that Scott proposes it as part of the BTA legislative agenda for the next session.

Drew
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Drew

Yes!

Paul
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Paul

I am concerned about some of the language in the bill. I totally empathize with the intent of the legislation, but I am unclear on how some of the implementation would work. It is so broadly written that there seems to be no affirmative defense, or someway to mitigate for other circumstances. As I read it if a cyclist runs a red light and is struck by the driver with a right of way, the driver is still criminally liable. Similarly, if a cyclist fails to signal and check for room and makes an illegal lane change the same could occur.

I think there needs to be some underlying criminal intent or negligence, not just operating a vehicle and making contact.

Martha R
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Martha R

This bill would finally acknowledge that driving in a way that causes a crash actually is criminal. We currently deal with crashes as if they’re accidents — “Whoopsie! I was tuning the radio and didn’t see that person. Coulda happened to anyone. Oh well.” It’s time to turn that around and acknowledge that failure to pay attention, failure to adhere to speed limits, and failure to drive safely is criminal.

Paul, choosing to use a cell phone while driving, or choosing to do anything that would cause one’s driving to be unsafe is criminal intent and negligence. Crashes are fully predictible outcomes of those kinds of behavior. There are very few true accidents on our roads. This bill finally spells it out.

Paul
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Paul

Martha-

That is a good view, but the elements of the new law do not state that. One is guilty if you only make contact while operating the vehicle. There is no careless, unsafe, negligent or other clause to qualify it. The cyclist running a red light example stands as I mentioned above.

I hope I am missing something, but if not I have a hard time seeing the courts enforcing this broad law.

Brent
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Brent

The bill states “…operates a motor vehicle upon the highway in a
manner that results in contact …”, Does this mean that the manner in which the vehicle is operated is the determining factor? It is a little vague. But what also concerns me is the part that states “… results in contact..”, this appears to let a vehicle operator off the hook if the vulnerable Roadway user takes action that prevents the contact but results in injury none the less (cyclist avoids car and hits tree). The vehicle operator causes the accident but without actual contact. What message is this bill actually sending? I think it is a good step but needs more work.

Paul
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Paul

Brent-

I hate to be the pro-auto guy on this thread, but how would you enforce what you propose? There is no way an officer or a judge could decide on the cause of a near miss that leads to a crash. I fully appreciate what you want to have enacted, having been run off the road myself. But there is no way you could prove the cause without a videotape, or something similar. And at that point just use the reckless driving law as it exists.

ray thomas
Guest

Text of bill HB 3314 is attached in separate email to Jonathan as well as text of amendment. The law would be changed to require reckless or careless operation of vehicle causing serious injury or death to vulnerable roadway user which means US, whether on foot or bike.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
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Attornatus_Oregonensis

“No [jail time is warranted], a hefty fine and some re-education, and suspension of the driver’s license, would seem to be the appropriate penalties, as well as community service.”

Suspension? I say permanent revocation is a minimum component of an appropriate punishment for such an act. There is no right to drive, and our public policy should begin to recognize the fact that additional restrictions on driving are necessary if we are to reduce the ~40k deaths it causes each year.

zilfondel
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zilfondel

I have ugly visions of an angry pedestrian running out into the street and throwing himself across the hood of a parked car…

Anyone remember those incidents in LA, in which after a bus was involved in an accident, people would scramble on board (who weren’t involved in the accident) to get in on the insurance claim?

I really hope that wouldn’t happen here…

Brent
Guest
Brent

Paul-

My concern is that if the wording is left at “..results in contact..”, then for the law to apply contact would need to be made. If that is taken out then it would be the officers descretion as to what caused the accident.

I would prefer that judgement is used and not leave a legal loop hole.

Oliver
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Oliver

Doesn\’t matter. The only time anyone is ever even charged (at least in portland) is if they\’ve been drinking or stole something. Even then people ask, why were you riding your bike at night? as if that has anything to do with anything.

Especially beware of statements like \”but I’m all for including bicyclists in this.\” Because we can see where that\’s heading. If there\’s enough anti-cycling sentiment in the enforcement field to neglect citing drivers who violate right of way and strike cyclists, imagine what things will look like when they can charge bike riders with something that will get them jail-time.