had these buttons made for the hearing.
Last Friday, just two days after he relieved former BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde from his duties, executive director Scott Bricker was down in Salem filling his former role as the organization’s chief lobbyist.
Bricker presented the BTA’s position on their proposed Vehicular Homicide Law (HB 3399) to the House Judiciary Committee. (Today, he’ll return to Salem to testify on behalf of a bill that would create a new pot of funding specifically for non-motorized transportation projects. More on that later.)
On Friday, at the Vehicular Homicide bill hearing, Bricker was joined by Mary O’Donnell, the widow of Tim O’Donnell, whose death in June of 2007 is what triggered the BTA’s most recent effort on this bill. The day also happened to be Mary and Tim’s 51st wedding anniversary.v
I received a copy of Mrs. O’Donnell’s testimony. Here are a few excerpts:
“My husband… died doing something he really loved: riding his bike with the wind at his back and a smile on his face…
Tim did absolutely nothing wrong… When she hit him, Tim went up in to the air at least 20 feet… The car went all the way underneath him before he came down and hit the ground… a paramedic performed first aid, but Tim’s injuries were so severe he died on the ground where he lay…
Tim and I would have been married 51 years today, but I celebrate this anniversary today by myself because a dangerous driver ran him down on his bike. Unlicensed and uninsured drivers are a danger to everyone on Oregon’s roads… It is inexcusable and unacceptable for the state to coninue to allow them to flaunt the law and to endanger everybody else who is using our roads including other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
And here’s a snip from Bricker’s prepared testimony:
“Mary O’ Donnell and the BTA are seeking a new Vehicular Homicide Law for Oregon to better protect roadway users by increasing penalties for drivers who cause deaths as a result of their habitual violation of traffic laws…
Tim is but one of the many victims of the dangerous drivers who are wreaking havoc on our highways… Tim died because of the actions of a driver who had no business behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
With their push for HB 3399, the BTA wants to capture people who get off too easily under Oregon’s existing Criminally Negligent Homicide statute (ORS 163.145). They say existing law requires too high a threshold for prosecutors because they must prove that someone made a “gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would observe in the situation” (meaning, “you have to really screw up” is how lawyer Ray Thomas puts it).
One would assume that any measure of distracted or careless driving that results in someone’s death would trigger this law, but as Bricker’s testimony pointed out:
“…district attorneys have concluded that subsequently killing another human being with that vehicle does not constitute Criminally Negligent Homicide.”
The BTA’s Vehicular Homicide bill seeks to create a crime that would be triggered when someone operating a motor vehicle kills another person while engaging in any one of several defined “high-risk activities” such as driving without insurance, driving on a suspended license, or driving under the influence of intoxicants. The new bill would cover those who kill with their vehicle but whose conduct does not constitute Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Ray Thomas, a member of the BTA’s legislative committee who was at the hearing on Friday, said this law — because it would not require a “gross deviation” or “reckless” behavior, only the death combined with a high-risk behavior — would put Oregon ahead of every other state and he told me he hopes it becomes a national model.
The House Judiciary Committee did not vote on the bill at Friday’s hearing. We’ll keep you posted on its progress.