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BTA clarifies legal tweaks they’ll push for in Salem

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As we reported on Tuesday, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is using the upcoming legislative session as a rebuilding year. Coming off a rough session in 2009 and accepting the reality of Oregon’s economic situation, instead of pushing for major new laws or funding bills, the BTA will focus on two minor tweaks to laws already in the books. Yesterday on their blog, the BTA clarified the changes they hope to make to the Vulnerable Roadway Users (VRU) law and the law that allows any Oregon resident to initiate violation proceedings against another party.

To improve the VRU law — which ups the consequences for vehicle operators who kill or seriously injure “vulnerable users of the roadway” — the BTA will look to do two things. The first, is to add driving with a suspended or revoked license as one of the violations (careless driving is the sole trigger now) that would trigger the law. The second is to clarify how police officers write up the citations when they suspect the VRU law should come into play. Here’s how the BTA explains it:

The vulnerable user law currently requires a police officer to note on the citation if a careless driving violation contributed to serious injury or death of a vulnerable user. However, police are reluctant to do so because it requires them to reach a conclusion that they perceive as more appropriately made in court. The 2011 proposal would clarify the notation the police officer would make on a citation for careless driving or driving suspended or revoked in situations in which a vulnerable user was seriously injured or killed. Under the proposed language, a police officer would make a notation on the citation if it appeared to them that serious injury or death to a vulnerable user had occurred.

Now, onto the second tweak they’d like to make…

In Oregon, citizens are allowed to try and cite another party for a violation after the incident occurred. “Initiation of Violation Proceedings” (a.k.a. citizen initiated citations) has been on the books for years, but for various reasons it’s not utilized as much as it could/should be. The BTA cites “a number of ambiguities” in the ORS that make it difficult to pursue this process. Here’s the skinny from the BTA:

“The legislative proposal would clarify the process for issuance and prosecution of citizen citations. Currently, if a driver who has been cited for a traffic violation is represented in court by an attorney, then the district attorney must prosecute the case. However, if the citation was issued by a citizen, the district attorney will have little knowledge of the particulars of the case and may have little interest in effectively prosecuting the case. The proposed bill would allow a citing citizen’s attorney, with the concurrence of the district attorney, to present the case on behalf of the prosecution if the defendant was represented. The bill also would clarify several other statutes to better identify the role of a citing citizen in prosecution of the case.”

Both of these tweaks are relatively minor and should not stir up much controversy. However, given how wonky and technical they are, the BTA might have difficulty getting legislators’ attention. Only a small fraction of the law changes proposed each session in Salem even get heard in committee, much less find their way to the Governor’s desk.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted on all the bike-related action in the 2011 legislative session. Check out our archive page for all our past coverage of this topic.