Friday Opinion: Time to get tough on distracted driving

Posted by on August 20th, 2010 at 10:00 am

The (illegal) use of mobile phones while operating a vehicle is way too common in Portland and more needs to be done to raise awareness of this and other behaviors that lead to distracted driving.

I’m sure there was a brief period after January 1, 2010 — when our state’s cell phone law went into effect — when people focused on driving and not talking. But my first-hand observations tell me that texting and talking on cell phones while driving and riding is out of control. Not a day goes by when I don’t see people doing this extremely dangerous activity.

Sunday Parkways Southeast-21

A man uses his cell phone while
biking during Sunday Parkways.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As validation for my observations, consider the Portland Police Bureau stats presented by the Portland Tribune back in June:

Portland Police Bureau data show that after a week and a half of warnings at the start of January, officers handed out 410 citations from Jan. 11 to Feb. 10. People seemed to have gotten the message. The next month, from Feb. 11 to March 10, only 190 citations were issued. But the next month, there were 259. And, from April 11 to May 10, police issued 324.

I also got an email from Peter R. a few days ago that really got under my skin. He and his family nearly got run down while pedaling on a local bike boulevard (emphasis mine)…

“This past Sunday, my family and I were cycling on NE Tillamook when we encountered a dangerous and rude driver at the intersection of NE 12th and Tillamook. The driver in question was engaged in conversation on her cell phone, failed to observe the STOP sign controlling her direction of travel and began to roll into the intersection as our family was at midpoint and directly in her path.

Fortunately she slammed on her brakes as we took evasive maneuvers and all avoided physical injury. My wife and I pointed to her STOP sign and gestured to her that she hang up the phone but rather than acknowledging her offense and offer apology, she instead became verbally abusive, gunned her engine, and sped off all the while remaining connected on her call…”

And of course there was the crash I reported on earlier this week where a man on a bike was run over by a woman operating a car while talking on her cell phone and “she was not aware that she hit him.”

Instead of waiting for a fatal crash and the tragic headlines that usually pressure us into action, we need to be more proactive on the issue of distracted driving.

Now would be a great time for our Mayor and Commissioner of Transportation, Sam Adams — who has said repeatedly that his #1 priority is safety — to use his position to raise awareness for this serious public safety issue. US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has done a stellar job keeping distracted driving front and center as a national issue. Mayor Adams would be smart to follow suit.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Work with Multnomah County to hang banners with a catchy slogan across all the downtown bridges.
  • Work with the Police Bureau to do some enforcement actions (and invite the media to cover it).
  • Do a City Hall “Ride for Awareness” with Mayor Adams and the other commissioners.
  • The BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge is next month; Mayor Adams could proclaim it officially as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

As for the law itself, it needs to be strengthened in the 2011 session to clearly outlaw all use of mobile phones while operating a vehicle (eliminate the “handsfree” exception as well as the exception for using one “in the course of one’s employment”). And yes, that goes for people operating bicycles too.

Do you think Portland should do more to raise awareness of this issue? What’s your opinion?

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

111 Comments
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    Andrew Plambeck August 20, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I was just about to blog about this over the weekend. In my 3-to-5-minute walk from home to the bus stop yesterday, I was almost hit TWICE by drivers who were on cell phones and rolling through stop signs (one was a right-turn stoplight) and would have hit me if I hadn’t jumped back.

    This is rampant around Portland and something needs to happen. Distracted driving is simply killing too many people in this area.

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 10:19 am

    All due respect, I don’t want a catchy slogan. I want signs that tell people that they’re f*&#ing rude, inconsiderate a$$holes when they drive and phone. Nothing to do with the law; everything to do with being a decent human being.

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    Ryan August 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I was almost run down on NE 7th between Weidler and Halsey. I was heading south in the bike lane, and I heard someone yell- “Watch out! Watch out in the bike lane!” I looked back and saw a white Honda Accord coming at me in the bike lane and pretty fast. The driver appeared to be staring at the floor of the passenger seat. As he passed me- close enough that his mirror brushed my thigh- I saw that he was holding his cell phone down low so that he could text without it being visible. After he passed me he proceeded to run the 4-way stop at Halsey, almost taking out a woman and her dog who were in the crosswalk. So far as I coud tell, he never looked up from his phone and never noticed me or the woman and her dog. Absolute blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others. If the cyclist behind me hadn’t warned me by yelling that guy would have run me down.

    I wonder if there could be a town-hall style meeting where every cyclist, pedestrian, and (yes) driver who has been hit or almost hit by people texting or talking on their phones could go up and tell their story to the mayor, the police, transportation honchos, etc.

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    Ely August 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Suggestion: Don’t point out stop signs and make hang-up gestures. Instead, record make/model/license number & call 911 to report dangerous driver.

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    suburban August 20, 2010 at 10:26 am

    You can stand and observe any portland arterial collector street at about 5:15pm and see for yourself how long it takes to count 100 talking/texting/web-surfing drivers. They know the truth about the enforcement of this law.

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    kgb August 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Yes.

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 10:30 am

    “As for the law itself, it needs to be strengthened in the 2011 session to clearly outlaw all use of mobile phones while operating a vehicle (eliminate the “handsfree” exception as well as the exception for using one “in the course of one’s employment”).”

    Give me a break. Maybe we should also push legislation to have nothing in your car but a seat and a steering wheel. No talking to passengers either; Everyone gets a Cone of Silence.

    When I was in high school, a girl I knew ran over a pedestrian while she was tuning her radio, so obviously car stereos should be outlawed.

    Truck drivers have been talking on CB radios for decades, but talking while driving is obviously unsafe and should be outlawed.

    Another side effect of strengthening the law: people pulling over in the bike lane to use their cell phones.

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    jered August 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Deputize all citizens so we can all issue citations for talking/texting while driving!

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    Zoomzit August 20, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Just a few weeks ago I was on SE 41st and Hawthorne with my 3 1/2 year old son on the back of my bike and I almost got hit by an A$$ who was talking on the phone as he pulled out of a parking lot without stopping or looking for cross traffic.

    I yelled a “Hey, GET OFF the PHONE!” and he actually turned his car around, got out of his car and demanded that I get off my bike so that we could fight. I was pretty amazed that HE was getting upset when he was breaking numerous laws and putting my and my son’s life in danger. Needless to say, I biked away before the issue escalated.

    It’s absurd how many people are still talking on the phone when they drive. It’s hard to see if the law has had any impact on people’s behavior.

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    BURR August 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

    so where are the police ‘stings’ to address this truly dangerous behaviour and threat to public safety?

    Or are the cops all too busy talking on their cell phones to bother?

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    Perry August 20, 2010 at 10:35 am

    “I don’t want a catchy slogan” – agreed, I want a Class 2 Misdemeanor, with the potential for 6 months in jail and revocation of driving privileges. No “hands free” devices, no use of cell phone while the vehicle is in motion, period.

    Oh, and I want the police to actually enforce it every time they see it happening. Right now, it’s very much selective enforcement.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

    If someone had a video camera and recorded these incidents would they be followed up on by the cops? My impression is that the cops wouldn’t do much of anything.

    Ultimately I fully agree that talking/txting is awful on neighborhood streets. But on grade-separated highways, I really don’t see it causing much trouble. I wish our laws would make the distinction.

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

    “No ‘hands free’ devices, no use of cell phone while the vehicle is in motion, period.”

    How would you ever enforce that? You just pull over anyone who’s moving their lips when they’re driving alone? It’s not possible. Today’s cars connect the phone to the interior speaker system via Bluetooth, so there is no visible hands free device.

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    A.K. August 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I feel like the “hands free” law actually created a more dangerous situation where people do stupid stuff to avoid being “caught” using a phone.

    Things such as turning the speaker-phone function on and holding the phone near their face, which is actually harder to hear than if the phone was being used normally, or holding it down low to text as Ryan #3 stated.

    Using a phone while driving (or biking) is stupid (and is clearly different than tuning a radio, I don’t think a comparison can be made). We all managed to do without it before cellphones were invented. I wonder how important these calls are that drivers are risking others’ lives for… my gut feeling is that they are not important calls at all.

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    Bob_M August 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I read Zoomzit’s post #9 and continue to be perplexed by people’s eagerness to commit violence.

    Nothing can be done about the cell phone problem from an enforcement point of view. We don’t have the number of LEOs to cite violators, and we don’t have public funds to get more. The cure is a mandatory GPS ap that shuts down cell phones when they are in motion.

    I expect that the only way we can persuade politicians to enact such a law would be to out spend ATT, Verizon, Cingular etc. Our politicans do their bidding, not the public’s

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

    “Using a phone while driving (or biking) is stupid (and is clearly different than tuning a radio, I don’t think a comparison can be made).”

    I was making the comparison in the general context of distracted driving. In my opinion, talking to someone via a cell phone headset is no more distracting than having a conversation with a passenger in your car.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

    @16: this is not true. the person in the car actually helps you notice things on the road. the person on the phone gets annoyed if you stop responding to them in order to deal with things on the road.

    The data exists

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    Eugene Bicyclist August 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

    The Legislature totally caved with the whole being-engaged-in-work exception. Utterly spineless!

    Maybe cops just need to make it a priority to nail a few people and the word gets out.

    But to those who are suggesting it’s no big deal driving and talking on the phone … you have to be kidding? Have you been paying attention the past 10 years. Or have you been too busy chatting?

    @ #7, re: people pulling over in the bike lane to answer or make a call.

    I’m starting to encounter this a bit more. Unintended consequnces. (sigh)

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Roma,

    laws are not just about enforcement. Laws send a signal to citizens about what type of behavior is expected of them.

    when a law like this is watered down for political compromise to allow “handsfree” use and use during “employment” it tells people that our elected leaders don’t feel as if the problem is that big of a deal. How can we expected people to take this problem seriously if lawmakers are will to compromise on it?

    My point is, a stronger law — even if it cannot be enforced — would help change behavior and that’s the main goal here.

    This argument is similar to my opinion on lowering speed limits… whether or not they result in people going slower or whether or not the enforcement resources back up the change — the point is that you’re telling people that you expect them to slow down. Peer pressure works and it behavior change should be our primary goal.

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Thank you Allan for making the point I was about to make.

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    Jason August 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I would have called, but my wife was using the car, so I couldn’t use my cell phone.

    I usually walk or bike to work because none of my friends want to talk on the phone that early in the morning.

    Sorry I didn’t answer, I wasn’t driving at the time.

    I didn’t want to bother you, but I have to drive over to the west side and couldn’t get anyone else to answer.

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 11:04 am

    “The data exists”

    But the data isn’t conclusive when it comes to passenger distraction vs. talking on a phone.

    For example: “AAA ranks passengers as the third most reported cause of distraction-related accidents at 11 percent, compared to 1.5 percent for cellular telephones.”

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    Jack August 20, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Maybe I’m missing something but it seems like there is an obvious solution to the problem of lax enforcement:

    Round up loads of unemployed people and give them a job issuing citations for traffic offenses. People often talk about how it’s too expensive to enforce these laws, but if your average citation brings in lets say, $100, and some person with a light and a siren on their car can issue 5 citations per hour, after expenses & wages we’re still looking at over $3000 towards public funds in one day’s work. Give a hundred people this job and suddenly we’re pulling in $1.5 million weekly…that is, until people start realizing that they can’t afford to be a bad driver anymore.

    Why do we need highly trained (read: expensive) police officers to do this?

    Problem solved?

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I witnessed a cell-talker, interacted with her and told her I was going to report her to the police. For my troubles, I got from the driver: a revved engine; a middle finger; a “fuck off, asshole”; and then I got from the phone respondent (police non-emergency): “we can’t issue a citation if an officer didn’t see the offense”; “what do you want me to do about it”; a hang-up.

    The police JUST DON’T CARE AT ALL about this issue. Part of the reason is because they are driving distracted almost constantly. Radios, cellphones, fricking computer screens in their cars. The other part of the reason is that they are not being given direction from above that this is a safety priority.

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

    “when a law like this is watered down for political compromise to allow “handsfree” use and use during “employment” it tells people that our elected leaders don’t feel as if the problem is that big of a deal.”

    Right – I also agree it’s not that big of a deal. Cell phone use isn’t even close to being the leading cause of distracted driving. I don’t see anything wrong with a hands free exception.

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Jonathan:

    Peer pressure sometimes works, sometimes not. And sometimes, society comes around to an issue after ignoring it, and applies peer pressure.

    My favorite example: littering. It used to be totally fine to litter in public. NOw, you cannot get away with it if anyone’s watching. It’s got to the point where anti-littering laws are not even necessary anymore, except for a small minority who don’t care at all about their world or about the community they live in.

    If cell-driving or other distracted driving behavior followed the same societal arc as littering, we’d be very fortunate. How do we get there? well, we need some symbols as strong as that commercial with the Native American running a tear down his cheek. We need it to take hold, and we need it fast.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

    @23: i totally agree.

    Ultimately, all forms of distractions while driving come down to the driver thinking that driving is something they have to do to get places.

    The real problem is that our car-dependent society has allowed people to assume that ‘accidents happen’ and that they can do whatever they want while driving.

    If normal people who drive 10+ miles every day thought of driving a something serious and getting in accidents actually scared them, we would find that traffic accidents went down to nearly 0. However, the lackadaisical attitude of drivers leads to all sorts of badness. The real question is ‘how safe do we want to be’?

    some folks, not wanting to pay that much attention while driving might even start taking transit or biking places so they could play on their iPhones or do work while in transit.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Good points Roma and peejay,

    Roma, I hear you about focus being on distracted driving and not necessarily just on cell phone use. If I was in charge of a campaign, I would definitely lead with distracted driving as the main message and have use of cell phones as a sub-message.

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    A.K. August 20, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Peejay #24:

    I think part of the problem with surly and aggressive people these days (god I sound old and I’m not even 30 yet) is that they feel so entitled to do whatever it is that they are doing, and they cannot take a step back to assess how they are acting or take responsibility like an adult should.

    Recently my girlfriend and I were walking in downtown and nearly got ran into by a pair of long boarders on the sidewalk. I told them to take it into the street. The response I got was “who do you think you are, the cops? You’re a f–kin’ pussy bitch!”

    I don’t know if I was right, but the response I got for calling someone out for poor behavior was very much full of anger.

    When I cycle, I just bite my tongue and don’t say anything to correct others. For one, I run stop signs myself so I can’t really call others out for their transgressions, and two I have no idea if they are going to fly off of the handle and freak out on me, try and assault me, or whatever else. It seems like everyone is SO STRESSED OUT these days, that many people are on the verge of cracking at the slightest thing.

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    DNF August 20, 2010 at 11:29 am

    The one that amazes me is bicyclists who talk on their phone. I’ve seen more and more of that in the last two years, and I’m baffled. It strikes me as ridiculously dangerous – not only are they distracted (in a much less protected environment than a car), but it leaves them with only one hand to steer and brake with in an emergency. Plus, the wind noise must be awful for the person on the other end.

    (none of this comment should be taken as in anyway downplaying the problem of distracted driving)

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    Karen August 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I used to eat and drink coffee while driving until I nearly rear ended someone when I spilled coffee on myself and became distracted.
    I see people putting on makeup! shaving! brushing their teeth!
    What the hell is so important that it can’t be taken care of either before we leave or after we reach our destinations?
    What the hell did everyone do before cellphones? OMG!!! We WAITED!!! The horror of it all!

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    Andrew Plambeck August 20, 2010 at 11:32 am

    It seems like everyone is SO STRESSED OUT these days, that many people are on the verge of cracking at the slightest thing.

    So true. And very scary, especially when as vulnerable as riding a bicycle in an urban environment.

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    Perry August 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

    @Roma #13 – Granted you can’t get them all, but in the event of an incident if there is an active call at the time, then there are no arguments about hands free devices. If the phone was connected, you’re guilty. We don’t really need to catch them all, we need to make an example of the ones that do get caught.

    And My God, I find myself agreeing with PeeJay twice in one day.

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    MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Every other year (sometimes more), the legislature meets and passes several different laws. Cities pass new ordinances all the time. And, I am not talking about laws simply regarding vehicles. LEO’s constantly have new laws they have to enforce.

    Now, when said laws are passed, how often do municipalities hire more LEO’s to enforce such laws? I would would put my guess anywhere from rarely to never.

    Let’s say I am a member of the PPD. I am out on patrol and I see two cars go by at 1:30 am. One appears to be doing a some swerving. The other car has a driver with a cell phone glue to ear but otherwise seems to be driving well. Whom do I pull over? Do I go with the sure bet of getting the person on the phone or do I go for the potentially drunk driver? I can only pull over one.

    Please do not take this the wrong way. I am in no way minimizing the use of a cell phone in a moving car. I think people should pull over to use a phone and this even includes cyclists. What it simply comes down to is how much time is a LEO given to enforce every single law out there.

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    Nick V August 20, 2010 at 11:42 am

    It’s just more of the “me first” mentality that I’m so sick of in our society. Sure there’s a law about using cell phones while driving but it doesn’t apply to me because my calls are important blah blah blah…..

    I was similarly yelled at by woman who nearly ran a stop sign and hit me while talking on her cell just because I motioned for her to hang up.

    The problem is that people are not taking this law seriously.

    THE SOLUTION IS TO GIVE THESE PEOPLE THE SAME PENALTIES AND RESTRICTIONS THAT GO TO PEOPLE CONVICTED OF DRUNK DRIVING.

    There is not a whole lot of difference between the two crimes anyway.

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    SkidMark August 20, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I’ve thought about taking a picture of people talking on their cell phone while driving, but if I did that while i was riding my bike I’d be just as guilty as them.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I’ve been this guy, talking on my phone on a bike, or looking at google maps on my phone while biking. Yeah its dangerous… for me! Not for anyone else! That’s where I draw the line. I’ll put myself in danger but I don’t want to put anyone else in it.

    When I do this, I tend to be riding slower so I have more time to stop/react. Feel free to put me in my place

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    Eugene Bicyclist August 20, 2010 at 11:59 am

    @ Allen #37
    What if you hit a pedestrian, an old lady or a little kid on a bike. I don’t let you off the hook quite that easily.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 20, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Allan,

    With all due respect, I disagree with your perspective on many levels.

    First, that’s the type of reasoning that drives people who primarily use motor vehicles crazy. It stirs up the perception that bikes want all the rights but none of the responsibility.

    You also have no control over your assertion that it will only hurt you. If you are not paying attention to the road, you could 1) have a serious bike-on-bike collision 2) have a collision with a car 3) cause someone to swerve to miss you and collide with someone else 4) run over someone walking or pushing a stroller, or…

    Bottom line is that, while I appreciate your “I’ll put myself in danger…” perspective, you have no way of making sure that is actually the outcome.

    If you’re riding slow and using your phone and you end up riding into me while I’m driving my mini-van and I kill or seriously hurt you, I may not be “in danger” of physical harm, but I will be severely remorseful and mentally tormented for the rest of my life.

    Just pull over to use your phone!

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    Whyat August 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I have a tough time looking at comments like these on a bike board for the following reasons:

    -If this article was about cyclists blowing through red lights and stop signs, a large number of comments would be defending that behavior
    -I have seen an incredible increase in law breaking cyclists this summer (not California rolls, mind you, but aggressive and reckless riding)
    -The reaction I always get when I call a cyclists out on breaking a law in a blatant and dangerous way is ‘F-U’, ‘Go F yourself’, middle finger waved, etc etc, even when said law breaker has almost hit me or put me into a position of danger outside of my control

    If we are really concerned about everyone’s safety, let’s start somewhere that we CAN control- the PDX bike community. Let’s make the peer pressure for breaking laws on a bike unbearable. Until the bike community is able and willing to engage in this sort of self policing it’s hard for me to take the outrage above very seriously. We’re all on the road together, and a selfish vehicle operator is a selfish vehicle operator, be it a biker or a driver. The behavior and self righteousness (and the belief that they are too smart to get caught or cause an accident are EXACTLY the same). I’m not saying talking on a cell phone is good- it’s not- but this really appears to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. And before someone says ‘bikes aren’t dangerous’, I’d like to see what people think would happen if a bike traveling 25mphb blew a red light and slammed into a 40 lb toddler.

    Summary- let’s deal with our own bad behavior before we point the finger at everyone else. Until that happens…

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    Brad August 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Golly gosh darn! Banners and more media attention for our narcissist mayor – that’ll show ’em!!!

    Get BTA off their butts and down at city hall to DEMAND enforcement. They should also extend an invitation to all concerned pedestrian activists, neighborhood associations, concerned parents, etc. to join for a mass demonstration.

    Also, they need to let Sam know that they will call him out for his fake bike cred if he doesn’t comply. Get the other members of this alliance to jump on board and get their media contacts going if needed.

    As an adjunct to the demand, start working on impressing civic leaders with how much ticket revenue can be generated with enforcement. This should be a no brainer at $190 a pop!

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    MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Allan: Tell that to a guy who’s $4000 carbon fiber bike you just totaled as well. Seriously, look him in the eye and say my distracted riding only “put myself in danger.”

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I think the point is that we’re vulnerable… like pedestrians except that we move faster and sometimes unintentionally hide out where drivers aren’t expecting us. So we take the physical stress of others mistakes way more than they take ours.

    Its not an excuse, its a rationalization! wait, are those the same?

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    Linda Marie August 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Perhaps one of the reasons the police are not ticketing for this dangerous behavior is because they are too busy talking on their phones. I see it nearly every day in downtown and SE Portland.

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    Spiffy August 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    the cell phone ban while driving law should have never passed… it’s another extra law to cover already existing distraction laws to give lazy cops an easy target…

    the law needs to be repealed and distracted driving laws need to be enforced…

    if you almost get hit by somebody, anybody, whether on a cell phone or not, driving dangerously call 911 and report erratic driving…

    I know they won’t do anything… but if they start getting enough calls about it, especially calls about the same driver from different people, then they may start to piece together that they should do something in the future…

    I’m going to get a helmet cam, or mount my cell phone and use that… if you send them a video of somebody breaking the law then they pretty much have to issue a citation…

    HD cameras on every corner and people getting tickets in the mail might make people take it seriously…

    until then stop blaming cell phones and start blaming idiots that don’t know how to drive…

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    davemess August 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Pardon my question (as I’m new to town). I’d heard PDX had passed a “stop as yield” law (where stop signs can be treated as yield by bikes).

    Is this not true?

    Why was it not passed?

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    matt picio August 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    peejay (#2) – How about “Get off the f&$^ing phone”? Catchy, and tells them they’re being a jerk. That said, I also agree with Perry (#11) – let’s put some teeth in this offense. Studies show that texting/talking on a cellphone is equivalent to being legally drunk. Let the law reflect that.

    Jack (#23) – I agree, but it needs protections so that the unemployed person doesn’t write bogus citations to get money. Give them a cameraphone to document the offenses – there’s thousands of unwanted (i.e. used and old) cameraphones that could be tapped for this purpose.

    Roma (#25) – Huh? I don’t think your personal experience is a representative sample. I, along with numerous other people, can report incidents of near-misses just in the last month, let alone the 7 months since the law went into effect. The problem exists, and hands-free doesn’t fix it (as proven in more than one study)

    Although you raise a really good issue – we need the laws for distracted driving, not simply driving while talking/texting/playing videogames on a cellphone.

    Whyat (#40) – And that’s really the point, isn’t it? It seems like the first reaction most people have to being called out on bad behavior is “F you”, followed by what the Romans called “Digitus Impudicus”.

    I’d argue not to start with the PDX bike community – I’d argue to start with everybody on the road – and to add (not to you personally, but folks in general), don’t be a hypocrite – if you’re going to start calling out bad behavior, A: do your best to not exhibit bad behavior yourself, and B: Don’t get so upset at other people who call out your bad behavior.

    The issue, Whyat, with waiting is that you can’t control the behavior of others – only yourself. If we collectively wait until we’re all acting “appropriately”, we’ll never get started at all.

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    Steve B. August 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Driving: privilege or right? In order to inspire our driving culture in this country to be safer and more attentive, we need proper barriers. Imagine if you got caught on the cell phone 3 times in a 5 year period while operation your vehicle, you lost your license for a year?

    My understanding is that this change has to happen on the state and federal levels. Anyone know much about how to change driving law to make it more in line with European equivalents?

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    Jarudi August 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Oh Jonathan. You really didn’t write this:

    “laws are not just about enforcement. Laws send a signal to citizens about what type of behavior is expected of them”

    Here’s an idea. All bike drivers stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Imagine how the good vibe of all that personal accountability and simply obeying the shared traffic laws would create an atmosphere where cell phone violators would feel guilty.

    Please. Climb atop your pulpit and tell us all about what a stop sign means. How about putting your actions where your indignaty is and calling for this enforcement campaign?

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    dan August 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Amazing how badly people behave. If I chastised a driver for running a stop while talking on their phone, I’d have expected that they would have the good grace to look embarrassed.

    Guess not.

    Maybe we should have a photo program, whereby submitting photos showing a driver on a cell phone and the car license plate will result in a $50 fine or something like that.

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    Merckxrider August 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I would suggest that the police department’s auto theft detail be redeployed to motorist behavior correction until such time as the average driver obeys speed limits and eschews electronic distraction. If drivers aren’t gonna behave, let the car thieves rule the streets.

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    Zoomzit August 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    @ Whyat #40: I get what you are saying and certainly the bike community getting upset at an infraction like driving and cell phone use is a bit hypocritical when most of us can not honestly state that we are making complete stops at stop signs.

    However, if, as others suggested, LEOs need to prioritize their time as to which laws they ought to enforce then perhaps they should be most mindful of the threat to public safety and spend their time busting the cell phone users rather than ticketing bicycle idaho stops as the number of death, injury and property damage is magnitudes upon magnitudes greater with distracted driving vs. most any cycling infraction.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    @42: That’s what Insurance is for.

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    chelsea August 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Roma: There is actually a huge difference between talking to another person in your car and talking on the phone. When you are with passengers they act as another set of eyes to point out potential issues in the road, etc. and tend to shut up when there is a tense situation. People on the other end of the phone are not able to do anything but cause distraction.

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    A.K. August 20, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Steve B #46:

    That is a good argument. I think getting a license should both be harder and more expensive. If you don’t value something, you’ll act careless with it, disregard it, etc. From how many people drive, it would seem as if they don’t care for the privilege much. Having it taken away would be a good start (though driving without a license seems to be a big problem itself).

    The only thing that sucks is that people in many places don’t have a choice but to drive, as there are no bus or train services. If our country was smaller, I don’t think this would be such an issue, such as how most small European countries are blanketed with rail options.

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    To be fair to Roma, there is a class of passenger interaction that is very distracting: dealing with babies and children. Below a certain age, kids lack the awareness of the situation in a car, and will demand attention regardless of the conditions. A parent’s attention is often dangerously syphoned away from driving to managing their childrens’ behavior, and that is a major cause of crashes, as the statistics prove.

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    @52: We chose (or our grandparents were chosen for back in the day) to criscross the country with highways. This was not the case in other countries, which have a more level playing field. Its not because we are big, it is because we have subsidized cars

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    Roma August 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    @peejay

    Very true – there have also been recent articles about the dangers of driving with pets loose in your car. The article I read called it “as dangerous as driving drunk”.

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    MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Allan #50: “That’s what insurance is for.”

    Your insurance company just hands over money like it’s nothing? It’s going to send out a check the same day to get the person a new bike? It is not going to want to investigate and want police reports? And let’s just forget that this little “I’m only putting myself in danger” maneuver could break a bone causing missed work and hospital bills. Suddenly, this insurance bill goes from $4,000 to $20,000 easily.

    But, hey feel free to put your convenience in front of others. If I see you out and I watch you play with your phone, can I call you on it and tell you I find it unsafe? Or am I just going to get met with a middle finger?

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    Allan August 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    You can tell me whatever you want, its a free country. I can also tell you to whatever I want in response. Its not like I don’t know its dangerous. What makes you think I want to hear it from you? I guess that’s the main thing I don’t understand. When do we get to tell other people that they’re being idiots? All the time? If so, why do we expect anything other than frustration? Of course folks know its not 100% safe, illegal, or whatever the case may be. Are you willing to get into a fight over it? I guess it seems like law enforcement is what is supposed to handle these issues… that way I don’t have to teach the laws. Isn’t that why we have these fines anyhow?

    And so what if the insurance bill goes up to 20k. Its not my money. BTW- the expected value of this happening puts it around negligible. I’m mainly continuing this discussion to see if you change my mind or not.

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    Opus the Poet August 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Allan #27

    The Problem is that cars are too safe now. The current barrier crash requires the car to be driven into a concrete wall at 35MPH, wait for the dust to settle, open the doors and step out of the car without a scratch. At 35MPH 75% of cyclists and pedestrians would be dead, and the rest would be hospitalized with varying degrees of injury running from sprains to quadriplegia.

    This also has an effect on emissions and fuel economy. The last car I owned was a Hyundai Excel, curb weight about 1800 pounds. The car that replaced it when the new crash standards went into effect was the Accent, curb weight 2600 pounds. 800 pounds of structure to support airbags and provide crumple zones, with a larger engine and worse fuel economy, with concommitant higher emissions to go with the higher consumption.

    We need to make having a wreck more dangerous for drivers, so that drivers will be more attentive to preventing wrecks. Risk compensation, anyone?

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    MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Allan, I’m probably not going to change your mind. Just do me a favor, though. Don’t hit me while you are fiddling with your toys going a little bit slower. I work at a hospital and if I break a bone, I will have to wait until the cast comes off before I can return to work. And, I don’t want to hope the insurance company is going to pay.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Jarudi (#49) wrote:

    Oh Jonathan. You really didn’t write this:

    “laws are not just about enforcement. Laws send a signal to citizens about what type of behavior is expected of them”

    Yep. I did write that.

    Here’s an idea. All bike drivers stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Imagine how the good vibe of all that personal accountability and simply obeying the shared traffic laws would create an atmosphere where cell phone violators would feel guilty.

    sounds like a great utopia to me. I wish I could make it happen. but i’m not sure of your point. are you saying people feel like it’s O.k. to talk illegally on cell phones because they know somewhere a person on a bike is rolling a stop sign? hmm. interesting logic.

    Please. Climb atop your pulpit and tell us all about what a stop sign means. How about putting your actions where your indignaty is and calling for this enforcement campaign?

    [on my pulpit]
    A stop sign means to stop. I would love for more police enforcement of all traffic safety laws… including stop sign running.

    thanks for the comment.

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    DNF August 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    @Opus

    There is an old saying that best piece of safety equipment would be a gigantic spike mounted to the steering wheel.

    That being said, I’d rather reduce the number of trips we make by car instead of making the trips more dangerous – besides cars were plenty more dangerous years ago and that doesn’t seem to have changed anything.

    The problem is that our perception of the risk of driving is far out of whack with the actual risk. Driving (or biking) is by far the most dangerous thing most people engage in, but because we do it regularly, we lose track of the risk (this is known as the availability bias). In comparison, the effect of risk homeostasis (the phenomenon which you are referring to) is tiny.

    I actually think driving culture is far more important in preventing/causing accidents than safety equipment is. And as frustrating and fear-inducing as biking in Portland can be, it’s still far better than doing so in, say, Hillsboro – to say nothing of most other cities in the US.

    Of course, as you point out, less fear is probably not a good thing, either…

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    Ely August 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve noticed that people, when called out on their bad behavior, get MORE angry/potentially violent when they KNOW they’re doing something wrong. Calling it out doesn’t help anyone ever.
    Maybe calling 911 won’t help either, but it can’t hurt – and I agree that the more calls they get, the more likely law enforcement is to pay attention to the problem.
    (I also think “reckless driver” is going to get more attention than “driver on phone” but I could be wrong.)

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    matt picio August 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Allan (#60) – “When do we get to tell other people that they’re being idiots?” – when they threaten the safety or health of others. maybe some other circumstances as well, but I’d say that first one is pretty clear-cut.

    Jonathan (#63) – I think that’s the best point yet – the bad behavior of some is never a justification for the bad behavior of others. Just because one cyclist runs a stop sign doesn’t mean it’s ok for a motorist to talk on a cellphone while driving. Many people use that reasoning to talk about banning certain classes of road users from the roads.

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    becky August 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    As she talking on a pink iphone? We had nearly the same experience on NE Tillamook on the 15th of this month.

    Where’s the anti-distracted driving version of MADD or DARE. I think peer pressure would be helpful.

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    jeff August 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    davemess #46. The answer to your question is NO. No law was passed. It has been attempted but never got out of legislative committee. By law you still have to stop at a stop sign/red light/etc in Oregon.

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    spare_wheel August 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    “Calling it out doesn’t help anyone ever.”

    What bunk.

    If cyclists as a whole are too *afraid* to call out misbehavior by motorists we might as well just give up and start riding sidewalks. If more of us did this, the roads would be safer for everyone.

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    spare_wheel August 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    “If more of us did this, the roads would be safer for everyone.”

    If more of us called out misbehavior. the roads would be safer for everyone.

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    Pete August 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I followed someone into Portland driving on I-84 years ago who was all over the road. After being behind this driver for ~10 miles I decided to call 9-1-1 and report them as a possibly drunk driver. I stayed on the phone with dispatch while an officer (who I believe could hear me) picked up the pursued and followed, and as soon as the officer got behind the minivan things changed instantly and the driver was straight between the lines and not veering. I was told by the dispatcher that their policy required them to stop the person to check (I have been followed and stopped before when a driver from out of state reported me as ‘weaving’ in a cargo van with bikes on the roof during Chinook winds – the officer said he knew I was OK but had to stop me because of the call).

    My point is, calling the police to report that the driver is on the cell phone may not be as effective as describing the vehicle’s actual dangerous behavior.

    Incidentally, I calmly asked a guy the other day what made him better than me. He looked really confused. I said “well, the laws apply to me but not you, why are you above the law? Diplomatic immunity?”. He replied “what are you talking about??” I told him he nearly hit me because he was paying attention to his phone, which is clearly more important than my life. He just stormed off (we were walking in a parking lot he drove into). Hopefully he got the point (but I doubt it).

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    peejay August 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Good thing I am almost never afraid to call out bad behavior by others. I know this provides little benefit to me at the time (and usually annoys those I am riding with), but it just makes it that much more uncomfortable for the offender. If more people challenge these offenders, only the hardcore jerks will keep doing it. That’s how peer pressure works.

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    tony August 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Slowing and yielding at a stop sign, on a bike is not BLOWING a stop sign.

    Nearly all drivers I observe will slow to no less than 3-5 mph to roll through a stop sign when there is no obstruction.

    I hear almost no reasonable arguements for allowing “Idaho stop” at stop lights.

    Considering that you can demonstrate that slowing and yielding at a stop sign while cycling is safe and nearly universally practiced, by both cyclists and motorists, the comparison to distracted driving in a multi-ton vehicle is apples to oranges.

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    Whyat August 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    tony- I was referring to cyclists that “blow” stop signs and red lights, not roll lightly through them. This is behavior that I see EVERY day on my ride to work. All it takes is one cyclist to blow through a light, cause a car with the right of way to swerve and BOOM. Dead people.

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    jbiker August 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    @ Tony

    Except the law is pretty specific that vehicles are required to stop at stop signs. And since bikes are vehicles, we are required to do the same. The law doesn’t always make sense, but be we are required to obey them.

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    Tonya August 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I’m a big fan of the peer pressure approach. I tell my friends and family to please not talk on the phone while driving. If I’m on the phone with someone and know they’re driving, I ask that they call me back when they are not behind the wheel. You all know these distracted drivers – start calling them on it!

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    Kman August 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Hm. I wish I still had my PLF insurance. Would love to look up those license plates “in anticipation of litigation” and send them a nice note.

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    99th Monkey August 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Ok… Here is something to watch that MIGHT convince Roma. I assume that some people watch Myth Busters and know what a decent job they do proving or disproving urban myths. They did a show a few years back to compare driving drunk and driving while distracted talking on a cell phone. Guess what, Roma? I dare you to watch the episode and then come back here with your same dismissive attitude that talking on a cell phone while driving is NOT dangerous.

    http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-cell-phone-vs-drunk-driving-minimyth.html

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    malka August 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    With so many people addicted to technology these days, it’s going to take a massive media effort to change attitudes about distracted driving. Added to this is the disturbing news that driving while under the influence of pharmaceuticals is “the new drunk driving.” But what else can we expect from a society that holds individual rights far above the common good?

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    thomas August 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    A very good discussion on a topic that obviously effects us all. Is there a good solution to this problem? Looking at the recent stats for drunk driving, which is equivalent to driving with the phone glued to your ear is not encouraging. Though the overall number of deaths are down by a half since 1982, there are still 13k people killed each year by alcohol-related fatalities (a third of all auto fatalities). Saw a recent stat that there 5.8K deaths related to distracted driving, which is probably on the low side and probably increasing at a rapid annual rate (wouldn’t be surprised if it surpasses fatalities from drunk driving in a few years). SInce drunk driving has received a lot of press and efforts to curtail, I think it is very necessary to have a prolonged and vocal local-state-federal response to this issue and steep penalties for first time and repeat offenders.

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    slowneasy August 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    The National Safety Council says that driving while talking on a cell phone impairs your ability by 25%. Texting while driving impairs your ability 35%. One of my of my defensive driving courses says that for every 300 bad behaviors on the road, there are 29 injuries and 1 fatality. Who’s going to be next?

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    are August 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    i do think there is a long-term social benefit to calling people out on wrong behavior. even if the immediate reaction is anger, you have let them know what there is a social norm out there somewhere that they are violating. the next time they do it, they do it with awareness that they are violating the norm, and the next time they are called out on it, the less they will be able to rationalize it, etc., etc., and about two hundred years from now they will free the slaves and black people can get real jobs, or something like that.

    call the cops if you want, but my experience is they are not interested. but i make it a practice to shame each and every motorist i see on a cell phone, every time.

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    tony August 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    “All it takes is one cyclist to blow through a light, cause a car with the right of way to swerve and BOOM. Dead people.”

    All it also takes is one 80 year old guy to drive through a Farmer’s Market. Or some 16 year old kid to be changing the radio station. Or some 30 year old truck driver to not check his blind spot.

    All those examples have happened. The straw man you have constructed? Well, if it’s happened, I haven’t read about it. Got a link?

    “The bikes” are not killing people .

    And to jBiker, come on, find me someone who follows all the laws. I’m not an anarchist, but REALLY. Find me ONE person who stops completely (in a car or on a bike) at every intersection. ONE.

    It is utterly insane that we have to argue about the Idaho stop when cars roll through every stop sign they can. Why don’t drivers have to defend every one of their actions? Why don’t the drivers have to explain the bad seeds, the drunken drivers, the angry drivers?

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    Daisy August 20, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    ORS 153.058 seems to be the answer to most of these problems.

    Driver info can be retrieved via the DMV.

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    Pete August 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    It’s tiresome the number of commenters on this site repeatedly asserting that it’s OK to run stop lights and signs. They should be sentenced to drive!

    ‘Cars’ do it (actually people driving cars, to be specific). Everybody breaks the law; nobody obeys every law. Bikes don’t kill people like cars do because they’re so much lighter. The laws/controls were designed for cars not bikes. Riding in a way that’s legal and predictable and courteous won’t change the overwhelming bias and injustice that the ‘cager’ public imposes on us. Etcetera.

    What’s insane is the endless rationalization. jBiker is 100% correct. Yes, I agree with the assertion that an ‘Idaho’ stop is not the same as ‘blowing’ a stop sign (eew, nasty visual). And I agree with the Idaho stop law wholeheartedly. Except we’re not in Idaho.

    But weren’t we talking about distracted driving? I thought I’d veered over to the Paul-bashing thread by accident.

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    Zaphod August 20, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Suppose {hypothetically of course} that people generally want to do the right thing by driving in a safe manner. Just suppose. If it is possible to convince a driver that what they’re doing *is* indeed dangerous. Not a fraction of a % kind of dangerous but really sketchy by any measure, would you expect them to stop?

    I’ve taken a few calls in my day and the thing that caused me to cease that completely was not a close call but a simple awareness. What I learned is that 1 second is a long time, 3 is an eternity. Driving feels so damn easy that we forget that it’s really a complex task that requires split second reflexes all the time.

    There are so many situations where

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    Pete August 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Peejay (#26): Excellent analogy!

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    drew August 21, 2010 at 1:09 am

    How about a law that automatically assumes the vehicle with the most kinetic energy is at fault in a crash, unless proven otherwise (that’s speed x mass I think).

    I read once that it was proposed in England, but did not pass.

    Could encourage safer driving and less cell phone use.

    In this country, drivers know they can get away with an “I didn’t see him”, and not even get a ticket.

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    aaronf August 21, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I’m going to go ahead and confess that sometimes if I’m on the freeway with my cruise control set at 67 and nobody is around to see me I occasionally make a brief phone call.

    I think that’s my Idaho Stop take on the cell phone law. It’s certainly safer than riding on the Esplanade with a bunch of tie dye shirts bungeed to my bicycle, right?

    Everybody have a safe commute!

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    tony August 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Pete,

    Sorry for veering off topic. While perhaps you were concerned about the tiresome number of comments defending Idaho Stops (a few) and running stop lights (still NONE). I was frustrated by the comments which seemed to say that it was hypocritical to be concerned about the behavior of drivers while there are cyclists breaking the law.

    The fact is, society prioritizes law enforcement all the time. It’s a smart thing to do. And the point I, and I think others, are trying to make is that sting operations in Ladds circle are ridiculous while people are driving around drunk and stoned and distracted etc.

    Every time I get into a discussion with a driver, they bring up the last 3-4 times they were annoyed by a cyclist, like it’s my responsibility to police all cyclists and we need to dress sharp and stand in line before we have a right to complain.

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    Pete August 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Tony, thanks for the clarification, I hear ya. I used to listen to people in one of my Beaverton offices intentionally bitch about cyclists around me (I was the only bike commuter). I moved to SF bay area last year and so many more people cycle and bike commute here that I don’t hear it anymore.

    Yes, the sting ops in Ladd’s are to pacify the residents who complain, maybe because they see too many cyclists ‘blow’ the stop signs. I stop at stop signs but was yelled at once in Portland for not putting my foot down – sheer ignorance of the laws. They’re running sting ops for using a handset while driving here but the schedule is plastered all over the news! Frankly I wish they’d run stings for not using turn signals, but I’ve rarely seen cops here use them either. I guess I haven’t been loud enough to incite a ‘sting operation’ (read: temporary enforcement) to shut me up.

    Regardless, enjoy the ride!

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    spare_wheel August 21, 2010 at 9:20 am

    “It’s tiresome the number of commenters on this site repeatedly asserting that it’s OK to run stop lights and signs. They should be sentenced to drive!”

    IMO, the problem is just semantics. To some, “blowing” stop signs is being equated with slowing to 7-10 mph. I ride ~350 days a year in PDX and in my experience its extremely uncommon to see someone precede through a lights at 15-35 mph without slowing down.

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    Opus the Poet August 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

    @drew#88

    I’m sorry, but “I didn’t see (him)” is a freely admitted confession do driving while impaired, not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and more LEO should be held cognizant of that fact. I have been harping on that very subject repeatedly for over a year on my blog, but I’m preaching to the choir there. I have only one regular reader that is a LEO and he agrees with me on that subject. On other subjects we have differences (like Idaho stops), but on “I didn’t see (him)” as a volunteering of guilt we are on the same page.

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    Ed August 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Once I almost got hit by a driver while texting on her iphone, or surfing, not sure. I took a photo of her license plate while blocking her way. I then pointed at my phone that I have taken a photo of her and her car. She rolled down her window and apologized that she didn’t look before crossing an intersection which I had right of way. I told her not to do it again.
    So take a photo of the reckless driver and the vehicle. If the driver actually hit you or continue to be verbally rude, at least you’ve got his or her info down.

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    Anonymous August 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    “That’s how peer pressure works.” –peejay

    The only problem is that peer pressure has to be exerted by people the “offender” considers peers. If you call out someone (a driver) who perceives cyclists to be beneath them, it is questionable whether any pressure has been exerted–especially when that driver can go to the bar after work and commiserate with his/her fellow drivers about what losers cyclists are. I salute your courage in calling out behavior of drivers, but I have to think it is more likely to get you flipped off, yelled at, or threatened with violence than to make a positive difference in the behavior of the driver. Then again, if only one in 500 drivers you call out actually thinks about changing their behavior, is it well worth it?

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    CaptainKarma August 22, 2010 at 12:09 am

    My master’s research indicated that talking on a cell phone is about the same as driving under-the-influence to the tune of .20 or more.

    Which reminds me of the time I took a cell call while driving in a deserted big-box parking lot late one night at only 7-10 mph – I still managed to hit a curb-thing and pop my front passenger side tire. Imagine if that had been a biker or ped, instead of the curb.

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    slowneasy August 22, 2010 at 10:05 am

    As a casual rider I have to weigh in here again. We can’t legislate common sense and it is dumb to insist upon the right of way when there are different ideas about the interactions between driving, walking and riding. I’ve been talking about these issues with my fellow drivers, professionals and non professionals and there are at least 3 distinct groups and probably more. It seems most drivers are conscientious, some drivers feel entitled and are therefore dangerous and some drivers are down right uneducated. These 3 groups can apply to pedestrians and bike riders too. I understand that the law gives me the right of way as a pedestrian or bike rider, yet common sense saves me from demanding that right of way if it is obvious that the vehicle driver does not share my views. As a pedestrian at a crosswalk I often demand that other vehicles stop by holding up my flat hand to them and making eye contact. If they acknowledge me and I see them slowing down I will consider stepping off the curb into the crosswalk. Everything about sharing the roadways with others is a roll of the dice until everyone is on the same page and that’s not going to happen in my lifetime. I can only lead by example whether I am driving my yellow bus or walking across the street on foot or somewhere in between.

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    Tourbiker August 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Older cars didn’t have all the luxuries & gadgets that today’s cars have.
    you HAD to pay close attention driving. Cars didn’t come so close to driving themselves.
    Power steering,Power Brakes, automatic transmissions,anti-lock brakes, GPS.
    these upgrades have lulled the public into believing they can multi-task.
    in turn…parents & motor vehicles divisions have failed to recognize the importance of staying focused on the job of driving.
    Testing is lax,education even worse.

    Laws simply haven’t kept up with the technology any more than web crimes have.

    unless of course it’s a lawmakers family that’s been effected.

    I’ve said it many times…

    common sense is not so common anymore

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    Anonymous August 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Saw yet another bike rider sans helmet riding down Vancouver near Emanuel Hospital after dark with a cell phone in one hand. She swerved into the path of a very patient pick-up truck multiple times. Totally oblivious. It makes me crazy.

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    Kt August 23, 2010 at 9:58 am

    This article shouldn’t be about distracted DRIVING– it should be about distracted transportation.

    Y’all shouldn’t be surprised to get the finger and “f-you” when you call out drivers for their infractions– drivers get the same thing from cyclists, no matter how nicely or non-confrontational the interaction occurs.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

    that’s a good point Kt. “distracted driving” is such a known and commonly used phrase that it didn’t even occur to me that the “driving” part doesn’t capture all modes.

    I’m afraid “distracted transportation” just doesn’t roll off the tongue though. We need a better phrase.. but sometimes you go with what communicates the idea/concept best, even if it isn’t the most accurate term. That said, I’m still going to try and think of something.

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    jered August 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

    This was the best, yesterday I was sitting in my living room looking out at the “unimproved road” that I live on and a 10 year old on unicycle was riding down the dirt road texting. Some things are so strange you have to just laugh!

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    Pete August 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

    spare_wheel (#92): agreed on different views of semantics (as I point out in the ‘foot down’ reference), but my point is that jbiker is 100% correct in simply stating that the law requires us to stop. People have repeatedly used the rationalizations I cited to argue that the law doesn’t apply to us as cyclists. Those arguments are invalid.

    In my personal opinion 10 MPH is generally too fast to proceed through a stop sign, but there’s no hard and fast rule on how far you’re allowed to stretch a rule.

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    Win August 23, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Why is phoning in a report of dangerous or illegal driving activity not actionable by police? I don’t understand that.

    If I see a guy run out of a Plaid Pantry with a gun and a handful of cash and drive off in a white van, surely my phoning in of that info is actionable and of interest to police (and appreciated) – it doesn’t matter that the officer did not witness.

    Why then is a report of a car running a red light, driving the wrong way down a one way street, or weaving across lanes not similarly actionable?

    What is the difference? Seems the least they could do is keep track. Then when you get multiple reports on the same license plate, you could infer there might be an issue to pursue.

    BikePortland, what is the recommended response when witnessing a dangerous traffic violation – call 911 or call some other non-emergency number (or transit police)?

    I tried doing the latter last week and after navigating a Kafka-esque phone tree finally gave up. Could not get a human. Left a message – got no follow up.

    Thanks.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 23, 2010 at 11:25 am

      Win. Absolutely do not hesitate to call 911 if you see someone operating their vehicle in a dangerous manner. It’s a crime in progress, which is what 911 is for.

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    El Biciclero August 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    “It’s a crime in progress, which is what 911 is for.”

    –Or is it just an “infraction in progress”, or maybe, a “violation in progress”. My bet would be that unless a driver is committing at least a misdemeanor, nobody will care. The reason drivers get away with killing people is that the deadly actions they take are generally minor infractions. Not “actionable”.

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    Anthony August 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    The problem is not just cell phones. Everyday I see women in their suv’s on the phone, but I also see people reading, shaving, reading books, putting on make up, fumbling for cigarettes, and don’t forget the morbidly obeese people inhaling a couple of cheese burgers while driving.

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    Steve August 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    “Do you think Portland should do more to raise awareness of this issue? What’s your opinion?”

    YES

    I agree with those who feel its not just cell phones. It should be “use of cell phones, radios, books, shavers, makeup, or any other form of distraction” and make it a stiff penalty. And if someone dies as a result it should be voluntary manslaughter, not just a ticket.

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    jim August 25, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    I don’t think cell phones are the problem. I think the problem is that they will give a license to anybody that takes a test, that any idiot could pass. It is just way too easy to get a license, I hate to admit it but the Europeans are better at this than we are.
    Even after people get caught doing stupid stuff driving they are still allowed to drive. I might complain a lot on this forum about cyclists, but if it were a different forum I would be complaining about drivers….
    If you think its bad now, just wait 5 years when the kids that grew up texting (literally) start driving. They live by their cell phones 24/7
    reform the driving test standards and also have more drivers training drilled into new drivers so they understand that these things will not be tolerated and they must be accountable for their follies

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    Kt August 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Jim, #109, absolutely.

    I got my license 20-odd years ago. I haven’t been re-tested since. It’s like “free upgrade” time when it’s time to renew.

    I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to require at least the written test to be taken each time a license is up for renewal. Laws have changed a LOT since I got my license.

    You could even do it “open book” at home, and take the completed test to the DMV for your license renewal. That’s how they do it for the Notary Public test. At least then you’d get people to read the driver’s manual looking for the answer, and I think a lot of our problems on the streets would be solved.

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    Paul Johnson August 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Can we email photos of drivers to the local police department to turn them in? If so, I’ve got a freeway offramp just dying for some photo enforcement.

    Failing that, can we legalize freeway sniping of people who are on the phone while driving?

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