at a press conference for
the bill last June, lost her husband
due to a careless driver.
(Photos © J. Maus)
At a work session of the House Judiciary Committee in Salem today, the BTA’s Vehicular Homicide Bill (HB 3399) was withdrawn from the agenda, thereby terminating its chances to become law this session.
According to BTA Legislative Committee Chair Doug Parrow, the bill was pulled because it has a fiscal impact (not good when the the state is facing a $4 billion budget gap) and there were “complications with the legal approach”.
House Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), made the decision, but not without first acknowledging the work of the BTA and Mary O’Donnell.
O’Donnell is the widow of Tim O’Donnell, the man who was killed in June 2007 while riding his bike on a rural road in Washington County. The woman that hit O’Donnell, 28-year old Jennifer Knight, was driving on suspended license and was cited at the scene for careless driving.
Mary O’Donnell has become a vocal advocate for bike safety since her husband’s death and she testified in Salem on behalf of this bill several times. On April 3rd, she testified in front of the Judiciary Committee on what would have been her and Tim’s 51st wedding anniversary. She said:
“Unlicensed and uninsured drivers are a danger to everyone on Oregon’s roads… It is inexcusable and unacceptable for the state to continue to allow them to flaunt the law and to endanger everybody else who is using our roads.”
Parrow, who was at the work session today, told me via telephone that Rep. Barker “recognizes this is a serious problem” and that he intends to work with O’Donnell and the BTA in the coming months and years to develop a “much stronger bill” for next session.
With time running out on the legislative session, a bike-related bill that has complicated legal language and a fiscal component was not the highest priority for legislators.
The BTA’s legal experts hoped this bill would fill in the gap between the very high threshold of guilt needed to convict someone of Oregon’s existing criminally negligent homicide statute and people whose combination of dangerous behaviors while operating a vehicle warranted a more serious consequence than Careless Driving.
The woman who hit and killed Tim O’Donnell was involved in a separate crash in Idaho six days prior to the one that claimed O’Donnell’s life. Investigators found that her “inattentiveness” was a contributing factor to the collision. According to the lawyer representing Mary O’Donnell, Knight pled “no contest”, never had to appear in court, and sent in a nominal fine in the mail.
Oregon remains only one of four states without a vehicular homicide law (the others are Alaska, Montana, and Arizona).
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