Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Mini-van driver gets traffic citation in recent Hwy 101 collision

Posted by on July 13th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

The Oregon State Police have just announced that 78-year-old Wanda Cortese has been issued a citation for her involvement in a collision with a woman riding a bicycle on Highway 101 south of Cannon Beach last week.

35-year-old Christeen Osborn, a well-known surgeon from Hood River, was riding on the shoulder of the highway prior to being struck by Cortese. The OSP investigated the collision and has cited Cortese under ORS 811.370, “Failure to Drive within Lane”. The violation is a class B traffic violation and the fine is set at $260. According to the OSP, Osborn remains in critical condition at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.

A traffic fine doesn’t seem like nearly enough consequence for the actions of Ms. Cortese; but at least some finding of fault was made. After the story of this collision broke, it became clear from numerous reader comments that Osborn was operating her bicycle in a legal manner and was as far to the right of the roadway as possible.

Christina Carrillo-Cowan was two cars behind Cortese’s mini-van when the collision occurred and said she saw the whole thing. “Christeen was way over away from white line almost in the gravel when the van for no reason swerved over and hit her,” she wrote. “The van did not even break… I am very upset about what I witnessed. The van had absolutely no reason for swerving.”

UPDATE: In thinking about it further, I wonder if this incident should have triggered Oregon’s relatively new (passed in 2008) “Vulnerable Roadway User” law. That law created enhanced penalties for vehicle operators who cause serious injury as a result of “careless driving.” According to statute, it appears Cortese would meet the criteria for “careless” driving which states that a person operates their vehicle in, “a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

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  • q`Tzal July 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    What I’ve observed:
    I have recently had a few loads in and out of Newport, OR.
    Aside from the erratic behaviour of lost tourists, both they and native that know the turns too well will take more rural turns far too fast.
    To make the turn without wiping out people will cut in to the corner complete using the bike lane.
    I imagine when I’m rounding a blind corner with a 53′ trailer, or on a bike, that the area I CAN’T SEE is filled with a hazard rather than assuming it is safe.

    Perhap ODOT could have some cardboard prop signs to scare drivers who cut in to bike lanes. Place life size cutouts, covered with some paintballs, at the edge of the bike lane with an “arm” sticking out towards the auto lane from the dirt. Move them around every 2 or 3 days so no one knows where to expect them.
    We need to inspire FEAR that people might be legally using the road around every blind corner.

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    • Evan July 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      That sounds like something that would force a cyclist into the roadway.

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      • q`Tzal July 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

        Yes, placement would have to be careful but I think there are some potential ways that a lifesize human prop could be placed to produce the same effect amongst drivers that lifesized cardboad “police officers” provide in liquor stores.

        I basically want to instill fear and paranoia amongst drivers that will lead directly to caution and improved safety. Far too many road users are “certain” there is no one around that blind corner because there hardly ever is. It only takes once to kile a cyclist or pedestrian and one near miss to instill deep rooted caution for life.

        Perhaps horror film students should be in charge of this initiative within boundaries set by ODOT. Hmmmm….

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  • esther c July 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Why is that not reckless driving?

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    • Craig Harlow July 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      I believe a charge of reckless driving needs to demonstrate intent or wanton negligence.

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    • Kristi Finney-Dunn July 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      While going through the court process in Dustin’s case, I was told the reckless driving charge was dismissed entirely because it was highly unlikely it could be proven that the driver had with full awareness consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk when driving drunk. I argued about the point (I didn’t even want the manslaughter charge reduced specifically because I wanted “reckless” to be part of the conviction) but gave in when it was explained they had doubts about the serious charges being upheld in a trial at all. We needed to have at least some kind of conviction, even if it wasn’t what I hoped for.

      I do agree that the vulnerable road users law seems like it would be appropriate in this case. And it definitely needs to be enforced more.

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  • JAT in Seattle July 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    “Osborn…was as far to the right of the roadway as possible” really? unfortunate phrasing since we tend to cling to the freedom that the statute’s term “practicable” gives us.

    In any event, a traffic citation may seem underwhelming, but bear in mind traffic citations or criminal charges represent the relationship of the wrongdoer with the State; a claim against insurance or a civil suit for damages represents the relationship between the wrongdoer and the victim. One hopes the insurer will pay out mightily and without a fight.

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    • 9watts July 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      A fine line I think between
      – noting that Ms. Osborn was bicycling very far to the right, and
      – reinforcing the unhelpful but persistent belief that bikes shouldn’t be in/on this road at all.

      Given that there is fairly broad agreement that riding a bike on 101 is best accomplished by riding close to the right edge of the road, this might be an opportunity to go one half step further and note that even if she had been in the middle of the lane, for any of the plausible reasons the new TriMet manual helpfully lists– http://tinyurl.com/8xw3dct –there would still be no excuse for her to be run over.

      This takes us dangerously close to strict liability territory which we of course do not have in this country, but I think it is worth emphasizing that people riding bikes can and sometimes must take up more than a sliver of space on the fog line, and that drivers should/must anticipate that, strict liability or not.

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      • JAT in Seattle July 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

        Of course I agree; I was merely struck by the use of possible. I cling to the believe that every operator of a vehicle absolutely must yield to the vehicle in front of them. That’s the “physics” thing that the blowhards in the comments section of regular newspaper sites always get wrong.

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  • John R. July 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Something along the lines of Utah’s texting law seems appropriate: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/technology/29distracted.html?pagewanted=all

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  • Joe July 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Rip the lic away for good!

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  • NW Biker July 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Unfortunately, I’m not the least bit surprised. A few years ago, a friend of mine was sitting at a light in Beaverton when an unlicensed teenager drover his mother’s SUV over the top of her car. Her car was so badly crushed that rescuers couldn’t get her out.

    She died. He got a traffic ticket.

    There’s really something wrong here.

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  • Chad Berkley July 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    This is ridiculous. If OSP is going to start citing people for “Failure to Drive within Lane” then they could write about 1000 of those tickets an hour on 101. Cars routinely ignore the lines on roads. How about “Failure to not drive into easily visible person/object”; penalty: complete loss of license, forfeiture of vehicle, massive fine and probable jail time.

    I wish Dr. Osborn all the best on her recovery. Riding a bike on one of our most scenic byways should not land one in the hospital.

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    • Peter Michaelson July 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Is there any other area of the law that is so seldom enforced as traffic laws? Probably 90% of drivers break the law 10 times per hour. What percent of drivers obey the speed lmit on I-5? I know I don’t and I don’t think I know anyone who does.

      Doesn’t this breed disrespect for the law generally? Why is enforcement so lax? Is this a common thing in law and society? Seems like everyone ends up thinking traffic laws are kind of voluntary.

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    • oliver July 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Not just OSP, PPB as well. Whenever I’m driving or riding the light rail I constantly see people disregarding the lane striping.

      And they do regularly cite people for failure to drive within a lane, but usually that ticket is reserved as a cya maneuver for frustrated patrolmen who pull over sober drivers for duii.

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  • Anton July 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    The thing is, she could have driven off the road at any point. But no, she drove into a cyclist. Like she was aiming for her. It’s the same phenomenon as a drunk driver. The Moth Effect but without lights.

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  • Gary Charles July 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Reading the Oregon vulnerable user law here- http://www.stc-law.com/pdf/Oregon%20Vulnerable%20User%20Law.pdf I fail to see how this doesn’t apply to this case. Any ideas?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      It does apply. It should have been applied. I’m working on fleshing out what happens next… but it’s clear to me and to Ray Thomas that the OSP should have triggered the carless/VRU law. stay tuned.

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      • 9watts July 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm

        I am troubled by the use (in both the local papers reporting on this) of the phrase ‘drifted onto the northbound shoulder’ to describe Wanda Cortese’s driving off the road and into Christeen Osborn. As if she and her minivan were a piece of driftwood carried by the tide.


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        • mabsf July 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

          I share this feeling: Specially in cases of a crash we seem to humanize cars as if they have a mind of their own: The car crashed into us, the car drifted…
          It’s not the car… it’s the driver…

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      • PomPilot July 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm

        Perhaps, if Mr. Thomas (or other knowledgeable consul) was retained by the good doctor, he would be able to obtain a copy of OSP’s investigation (for civil action of course). Once the report is in hand, he would have a clearer picture as to if prosecution under the vulnerable roadway users statute is warranted. If ‘yes’, then advise the DA, that if they didn’t add the appropriate charge(s), that his client would pursue the matter via a citizen initiation of violation proceedings (under O.R.S. 153.058).

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      • bjorn July 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm

        As someone who worked hard with Ray to get the Vulnerable Users law passed, it should apply and it is disappointing to see it not applied, hopefully it is not too late to have it apply.

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      • El Biciclero July 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm

        Perhaps the VRU law should apply, but it doesn’t unless OSP wants to issue a “careless driving” citation.

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  • Joe July 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    We need to start putting laws in place that protect ppl riding a bike!

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    • Opus the Poet July 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      There are laws that protect cyclists and pedestrians on the books, but they’re bloody useless unless they are prosecuted.

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  • wsbob July 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Has the OSP accompanied their announcement of the citation issued to the person driving and involved in the collision, with any information about investigation of the collision and conclusions drawn from it, that led the OSP to issue the citation it did, rather than a different one?

    To this latest, slimmest of of information provided in this story, some of the people reading it are already doubting the OSP’s decision, without even the slightest knowledge of the reasons the person driving happened to drive off the road into the person riding.

    How did the person driving happen to drift off the road into the person biking? Find this critical information out first before drawing arbitrary conclusions that the elements of a law have been met. There’s been no report that the person driving was doing so recklessly. According to the law, does the fact alone that a person driving has drifted off the road and collided with someone as a result of doing so, have them meet the criteria of a reckless driver?

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    • 9watts July 14, 2012 at 7:20 am

      According to the law, does the fact alone that a person driving has drifted off the road and collided with someone as a result of doing so, have them meet the criteria of a reckless driver?

      “If we booked everyone for Reckless Driving,” said Lt. Parman, “It would reach a point where we couldn’t bring anyone in.”
      from this story: http://bikeportland.org/2008/08/15/a-look-at-enforcement-policies-in-dramatic-stark-st-collision-8417

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      • wsbob July 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

        9watts…from the bikeportland story you cited, about a collision that also consisted of someone in a motor vehicle colliding with a person on a bike:

        “…According to the Police, Waddy was momentarily distracted when he reached down to grab something off the floor of his car. …”

        That excerpt reports that the police learned why the person driving the motor vehicle on Stark, Lance Waddy, happened to run into the person on the bike, and knowing the reason met the conditions for a reckless driving charge, issued him a citation for that crime: he did something that drew his attention away from operating the motor vehicle.

        With regards to this most recent collision on Hwy 101, what is known to bikeportland readers about the reasons the person driving happened to drive into the person riding the bike on the shoulder of the road? What does OSP know of those reasons? Those reasons relate to the particular citation the OSP can legally issue to the operator of a vehicle.

        Also, and please try to not post excerpts from stories in a way that may bring readers to wrong conclusions. In the bikeportland excerpt, the Lt. Parman quote was immediately preceded by a mention of jail overcrowding. The story did not say the jail could be filled to capacity with people cited for reckless driving were officers to arrest everyone they suspected of being guilty of that offense.

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        • 9watts July 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

          You’re right, wsbob, we don’t know anything about why Wanda Cortese ran off the road and right into Christeen Osborn. Maybe she had a nosebleed. Maybe her grandson sent her a text moment before. Maybe she had to sneeze. Maybe her eyesight isn’t so good anymore. Maybe she was having an argument with her husband. I am not sure we can know the exact circumstances. And I’m personally not that concerned with the specifics, because the upshot was that she very nearly killed Ms. Osborn. The point I’m trying to make is that to me such a gross act of negligence should be recognized as serious by our laws, and the nature of the citation that follows should communicate that.

          The very interesting and apparently anomalous Utah anti-texting law that was referenced earlier in this discussion came about only through a fluke discovery – the cop, who was driving the kid who’d just run into two other people and caused their death, noticed that he was texting in the cop car and he asked him if he had been just before the crash….

          I am no lawyer but I don’t understand–when we know as much as we know–why it matters if Wanda Cortese was rummaging in the back seat or was looking straight ahead. But I’m happy to learn why this is important.

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        • 9watts July 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

          The story did not say the jail could be filled to capacity with people cited for reckless driving were officers to arrest everyone they suspected of being guilty of that offense.

          Actually, wsbob, that is pretty close to how I read that part of the conversation–the way I read Jonathan’s story and quotes doesn’t rule out that interpretation. Jail overcrowding was key to the argument. Here’s a longer excerpt from this earlier story:

          “There are many crimes that, while technically someone can be arrested and jailed for, much of what happens to them is up to the responding officer’s discretion. Reckless Driving is one of those crimes where officers can make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

          An issue that likely weighed into the officer’s decision in this case was jail overcrowding. I spoke to Traffic Division Lieutenant Bryan Parman about this case at recent event. (emphasis mine)

          “If we booked everyone for Reckless Driving,” said Lt. Parman, “It would reach a point where we couldn’t bring anyone in.”

          He made it clear that, if it were to him and other officers, they would be able to lock up everyone who committed a crime. But, the reality of the system is that they try and reserve precious jail space for those suspects whom the officers cannot identify and who are most serious offenders.”

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          • wsbob July 15, 2012 at 8:56 am

            “…they try and reserve precious jail space for those suspects whom the officers cannot identify and who are most serious offenders.” maus/bikeportland

            Either I’m just not getting this last part of what maus wrote, or there’s a mistake there. ‘cannot identify’? Seems like it should be ‘can’ identify.

            At any rate, sure…jail over-crowding is an issue, but the great number of other crimes people commit besides reckless driving, would seem to be why they’re over-crowded. If people weren’t arrested for any other reason than reckless driving, over-crowding probably wouldn’t be a problem.

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  • bendite July 14, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I was trying to think of any other situation outside of driving, where someone blatantly breaks the law and injures someone in the process, that the only consequence is a fine. Can anyone think of one?

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    • Machu Picchu July 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Outside of the Great American Right to Drive, if you’re not responsible you lose your freedom. In driving, you do it to be free, and when you’re irresponsible you stay free, it just gets more expensive.

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    • wsbob July 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Is there something you know, that the rest of us don’t, allowing you to be certain the person driving and involved in this collision ‘blatantly’ broke the law? Whatever the police discovered in terms of reasons this person’s car collided with the person on the bike, hasn’t yet been reported, as far as I know.

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      • oliver July 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

        The driver was cited for “failure to maintain a lane” ergo, she broke the law requiring her to maintain a lane. As far as driving with undue care and attention, that’s a judgement call, but…in my opinion, nothing* inside the vehicle short of acute medical emergency (about which we’ve heard nothing) qualifies as justification for not keeping both eyes on the road and avoiding collisions other road users.

        *despite opinions on the O’live boards which (I kid you not) count the following as valid reasons for not concentrating on the road: eating, adjusting the radio, dealing the errant children, taking an “important” phone call.

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  • Paul Tay July 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm
  • esther c July 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    It seems pretty reckless to me to allow your car to drift out of your lane and mow down a cyclist in another lane. That strikes me as the very definition of wanton and careless disregard.

    To bad if the jails overflow. Perhaps if they charged and locked up a few people then others might start paying attention if they knew there was actually a price to pay for maiming and killing people.

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    • wsbob July 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      “It seems pretty reckless to me to allow your car to drift out of your lane…” esther c

      Same response I posted to Machu Picchu’s comment up above. I think it has to do with what Craig Harlow mentioned in his post up the top of the comments: “intent”.


      I expect when and if news about the OSP investigation is reported, the same reason will explain why police didn’t cite for the vulnerable road user law. What a person can be cited for, has to do in part with the objective of the law and whether it’s been written to allow achieving that objective.

      So like, if you do some back-checking on the earlier Hwy 101 motor vehicle rear-ending people on bikes, you’ll find the person driving in that collision eventually got cited and convicted because it was eventually learned that he knowingly drove his vehicle in an irresponsible manner, prior to and leading up to the collision. He, and his passenger apparently knew something was wrong in plenty of time to pull over, switch drivers or something to avoid problems, but they did nothing.

      In this most recent collision, what the person may or may not consciously or deliberately have done to cause this collision isn’t yet known by the public.

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    • wsbob July 15, 2012 at 9:27 am

      “It seems pretty reckless to me to allow your car to drift out of your lane and mow down a cyclist in another lane. …” esther c

      Do you ‘know’ the driver allowed their car to drift out of the travel lane and into the person biking? Or that the driver was driving in a way that led to the collision? The vulnerable road user law doesn’t seem to be written to cite people for whatever reason. It’s written to cite people that have somehow deliberately driven in a way that could hurt someone or damage and destroy their property.

      The law could probably have been written so that for whatever reason, if a person’s car happened to collide with a vulnerable road user while the person was behind the wheel, that person would be penalized. It seems to me the law wasn’t written in that way to be all inclusive, and was written to allow for reasons a collision might happen that a person driving may not have control over.

      I see a number of people expressing in their comments here, that they don’t really care that the person driving may not have intended to run into the person biking, or that the person driving may have been doing everything they knew to do, not to run into anyone.

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      • 9watts July 15, 2012 at 9:52 am

        I see a number of people expressing in their comments here, that they don’t really care that the person driving may not have intended to run into the person biking, or that the person driving may have been doing everything they knew to do, not to run into anyone.

        There’s a vast distance between those two extremes, wsbob.

        I think we’d pretty much all agree that Candace Palmer, Wanda Cortese, Sandy Day, Bryan Lowes, Timothy Wiles, even Mark Hanna never intended to run into or over anyone, so that’s pretty much out. And doing everything they knew to do is also kind of a red herring, since not driving would surely be an important consideration for anyone claiming to hold themselves to that standard.

        The point, I think, is that Wanda Cortese wasn’t paying (nearly enough) attention in this case. Tens of thousands of people drive past people biking every day in Oregon and 99.x% of them do not collide. Given that she wasn’t paying enough attention to avoid running into Christeen Osborn, and we have a vulnerable road user law on the books, I am still interested in understanding why the subtleties of her distraction, as mediated by her interpretation of the event, are supposed to be so decisive here?

        Control is a subtle matter. Let’s say Wanda Cortese’s front left tire had blown out in the instant before she expected to overtake Christeen Osborn. How would this situation be handled in the context of strict liability? And in our legal system? And by what logic are victims of un-controlled automotive behavior not only maimed or dead, but also pretty much automatically out of luck in our system?

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        • wsbob July 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

          “…The point, I think, is that Wanda Cortese wasn’t paying (nearly enough) attention in this case. …” 9watts

          Unless you’re privy to information about the collision and persons involved in it that hasn’t been reported in the news, you don’t know that the person driving in this collision wasn’t paying attention to the operation of the vehicle. You do not know why the vehicle came to leave the lane and move to the shoulder of the road and into the person on the bike. At least, not to the extent necessary to know if the person driving is guilty of a crime.

          It’s pure speculation to assume somebody deliberately did something when nothing is known that would support the idea they’ve done so.

          I’d readily volunteer that the OSP knows way more about the person having driven the car than I do, yet the only citation they apparently felt they could issue to this person was the ‘Failure to Drive within Lane’. Is this because, as some people seem wont to say, ‘The police are soft on enforcement.’ , lax, don’t care, etc. ? No way. They’ve had to devote a chunk of their budget, responding to the collision, and all that goes with that, investigation and so on, and all they can do in the way of citations to show they’ve done their job is to issue this minor citation.

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          • El Biciclero July 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

            “you don’t know that the person driving in this collision wasn’t paying attention to the operation of the vehicle.”

            If the driver was paying “enough” attention, then this collision was the result of either mechanical failure of the vehicle, or deliberate intent. Mechanical failure would have been loudly proclaimed by now as a way to exonerate the driver, so are you surmising that she did it on purpose?

            The problem is we don’t have laws for enforcement personnel to enforce. Is there any such thing as “Failure to drive within a lane resulting in serious bodily injury”? If there were, that would be the citation to issue, not just an “oopsie, you went over the line” ticket.

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            • wsbob July 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm

              “…so are you surmising that she did it on purpose? …” El Biciclero

              No, I’m not. I don’t know why this collision happened. Someone closer to the person driving the vehicle may know, and the people investigating the collision may know or have some ideas why it happened.

              “…Is there any such thing as “Failure to drive within a lane resulting in serious bodily injury”? …” El Biciclero

              Sounds like a facetiously made up name. Seriously, probably no law in Oregon like that.

              More important than finding someone guilty of something, may be who will be picking up the tab for the injured party’s medical care and other personal expenses to the injured party as a result of the collision. That seems to be what the concept of ‘strict liability’ is for:



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              • El Biciclero July 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

                I still say that running over someone on the shoulder of the road is prima facie evidence that they weren’t paying enough attention to driving. Unless the driver suffered a medical “event”, the vehicle malfunctioned in some way in which the steering was affected, or a passenger literally grabbed the wheel and yanked it. Any of those things seem spectacular enough that they would have been reported by now. So by saying “we don’t know”, you sound like you mean either “we don’t know why she quit paying attention”, or “we don’t know whether it was intentional”.

                “More important than finding someone guilty of something, may be who will be picking up the tab for the injured party’s medical care and other personal expenses to the injured party…”

                This is where it gets tricky. Compensation of the victim at the offender’s expense should probably have higher priority than “punishment” of the offender, but is compensation enough to “send the right message” about driving while careless? Or would it merely reinforce the idea that if you have enough money, it doesn’t matter what you do–you can pay to “fix” it. To me, it seems that at least some modification of driving privileges up to and including permanent revocation, ought to be a given in cases where driver inattention or recklessness is the majority cause of injury or death to a vulnerable road user. You are right, though–we don’t necessarily want to punish someone into a state where they cannot then provide due compensation to victims.

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  • esther c July 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I think there is an issue of intent here. She intentionally chose to not pay attention to what she was doing, knowing that there was a bike lane to her right.

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  • anthony sands July 15, 2012 at 12:35 am

    proof the establishment will continue to protect drivers at all cost. they can run over anything or anybody and get a f@#$$% ticket. O sorry I did not mean to kill you does not work for me.

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  • Jerry H July 15, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I would like to see a law that requires the police to check phone records of drivers who are involved in accidents to determine whether the driver was texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. There should be a heavy penalty if it can be shown there was any cell phone activity in the minutes before an accident. Drug and alcohol testing is done…why not add cell phone activity checks?

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  • esther c July 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

    wsbob, how is choosing to not maintain your lane not deliberate. We all know when we drive that our cars do not drive themselves. We have to choose to steer them.

    It is a choice that we make to allow them to drift into a bike lane. That is deliberate. I think I’m going to quite focusing on maintaining my lane and perhaps do something else.

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    • wsbob July 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      esther…first, I should mention that I didn’t intend to respond to your comment twice…just kind of overlooked that I already had responded to it.

      About the person driving that was involved in this collision. In news reports available to the public, it’s not been reported that the person driving deliberately drove off the main lane of the road, or deliberately into the person on the bike. At least to the public’s knowledge, why the driver happened to run off the road at the particular time and place the driver did, remains an unanswered question.

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  • Paul Johnson July 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Oregon is soft on motor vehicle crimes. Oklahoma sends people to prison for this.

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  • esther c July 16, 2012 at 12:35 am

    I know that she didn’t deliberately choose to drive into the bike lane.

    But she did deliberately choose to not pay attention to what she was doing. She, like all drivers, knows that a car doesn’t drive itself and she chose not to make the effort to keep her car in its lane. That was intentional. It didn’t just happen. Whatever she allowed to distract her was a deliberate conscious decision on her part, that it was worth the risk to her to not pay enough attention to her driving. And the cyclist is paying the price.

    We don’t just get in our cars and turn them on and step on the gas and hope they go where we want them to. No. We all realize that its up to us, as drivers to make the car go where we want it to.

    For some reason this woman didn’t bother to do that for a brief period of time.

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    • Colleen July 16, 2012 at 6:00 am

      I completely agree with you… This is the second time in my life a careless driver has hurt someone in my family. When I was 16 and christeen( the bicicylist)was 15 our mother was killed by a careless driver. He also walked away with a ticket. People need to realize that driving is dangerous thing and need to remember that every time they get behind the wheel.

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      • El Biciclero July 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        “People need to realize that driving is dangerous thing and need to remember that every time they get behind the wheel.”

        This is indeed what is lacking in U.S. society; a conscious awareness of the destructive potential you have when driving a motor vehicle. We talk about how everything else is “dangerous” when really, if you take cars out of the equation, the danger evaporates. Driving is so ingrained as “normal” and “necessary” that a) we view it as a right, when it isn’t, and b) we fool ourselves into thinking that it is safe, when again, it isn’t.

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      • 9watts July 31, 2012 at 9:53 am


        can you tell us anything about how your sister is doing? I don’t hold out much hope on the legal front, but am hoping for good news about Christeen’s condition.


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      • 9watts October 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

        Any updates?
        Maybe I’m out of phase with everyone else, but to me cases such as this one cry out for some resolution, or at least some follow up. What is the current status with Christeen? with Ms. Cortese? With DA Marquis?

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  • Tourbiker July 16, 2012 at 8:00 am

    If they started to take away all the reckless drivers privilege to drive,
    city’s & states would have less road costs to improve, & mass transit systems would fall more into favor.
    we don’t need more lawyers in congress, we need more doctors & philosophers.

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  • GlowBoy July 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    She might have intended to not pay attention to her driving, but that’s not the kind of intent addressed in the reckless driving law. Careless driving, yes. Reckless driving, no. Let’s not diminish the seriousness of genuine reckless driving (a less common, but more grave, problem) by confusing the two.

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    • are July 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      intending to not pay attention, if anyone could prove such a thing, would certainly be reckless

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  • esther c July 17, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Glowboy, people are injured just as gravely by one as the other.

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  • GlowBoy July 17, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Esther, that’s obvious. But there’s a distinct difference in intent between reckless driving and careless driving. The law is full of distinctions based on intent: for example, it distinguishes between first and second degree murder based on intent, even though the victim is just as dead.

    Reckless driving involves wanton disregard for the rules of the road. If you’re going 80mph and passing on blind curves, that’s reckless driving. If you’re deliberately driving on the shoulder around a blind curve where you know there might be a cyclist, that’s reckless driving. I don’t think there’s any public evidence that was the case, however. If you end up on the shoulder because you were being a sloppy driver, that’s careless driving.

    The distinction is important because we do have genuine reckless drivers on the road. We need to be able to really throw the book at them without there being any ambiguity about the seriousness of that crime. Committing offense inflation by mixing up careless and reckless driving undermines that.

    I’m not saying that Wanda Cortese shouldn’t be severely punished for her crime. She should. Motor vehicles are deadly weapons, and they should not be used either carelessly or recklessly. I’m just saying her crime was not, strictly speaking, reckless driving. It was careless driving that resulted in a critical injury to someone. She should be punished for that, and if Oregon’s vulnerable user statute can’t be applied or doesn’t punish her sufficiently, then we need to change the law so that careless driving (a rapidly escalating problem) carries more serious consequences, especially when someone gets hurt.

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    • El Biciclero July 17, 2012 at 11:00 am

      I’m unclear on the nature of citations such as “failure to drive within a lane”. Does that imply careless driving, or does a specific citation have to be issued for “careless” (heh, I keep wanting to type ‘carless’ driving) driving in order to apply the VRU conditions? It seems there are any number of offenses that a driver could be cited for: speeding, failure to obey a TCD, improper turns, unsafe passing, etc. that would all seem to require some degree of carelessness in order to commit. But if some vulnerable road user is injured during the commission of some such offense, would the VRU law apply? If it is not already the case, I think we need something similar to (as I understand it) the “implied consent” law, where if you commit one of some list of infractions, it automatically implies carelessness and brings the VRU provisions to the table.

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    • wsbob July 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

      “…I’m not saying that Wanda Cortese shouldn’t be severely punished for her crime. She should. …” GlowBoy

      I think that’s wrong. What’s the definition in the ORS for ‘careless driving’? Based on what’s been reported in the news about this collision, there’s been no indication that the driver of the vehicle was operating it carelessly or recklessly. What’s been reported so far, is that the vehicle she was driving, left the road and hit someone on a bike. That’s it; nothing about signs of careless or reckless driving.

      In this collision, based on reports so far, the vehicle leaving the road was an aberration.

      The fact is, no explanation as of yet, has been given for why the vehicle left the lane of Hwy 101 and moved to its shoulder, striking someone. There has been no evidence presented that the person driving the vehicle is guilty of any crime. None.

      The vehicle Cortese was driving, left the road and hit someone riding a bike. By rights, she should be paying for all medical bills, damage and whatever, or if she can’t, the state should since it’s a public road pitched as a scenic route…but whether or not she committed a crime hasn’t been established. She may have done so, but it hasn’t been proven that she has.

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  • GlowBoy July 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Some other states’ statutes use the “due care” wording, but ORS (811.135) is fairly vague: “A person commits the offense of careless driving if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

    I think swerving onto a shoulder occupied by a bicyclist pretty clearly constitutes driving “in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.” While we don’t have any evidence for a reckless driving charge, the bar for careless driving is pretty low.

    You are right that the driver is on the hook for civil penalties and that it hasn’t been established whether she committed a crime. Although reckless driving is a crime, careless driving is not. It is nominally a Class B traffic violation, escalating to Class A if it contributes to an “accident.” (ORS’ words, not mine). Even in the case when a vulnerable user is maimed or killed (811.135(3)), penalties are escalated but are still not criminal.

    The maximum penalties under the “vulnerable user” portion of the law, as I read it, are a maximum fine of $12,500 and suspension of driving privileges for up to one year … suspended on condition of completing a traffic safety course and performing between 100 and 200 hours of community service.

    Better than nothing, but woefully insufficient IMO. And I stand my “she should” statement. I grew up and learned to drive (in a state that emphatically was not Oregon!) being taught that I could be held responsible if my car hurt someone else, even if it wasn’t fully my fault: if a kid chasing a ball ran in front of my car and got killed, especially if I was even ONE mph over the limit, then *I* might get charged with Manslaughter. Guess what, the prospect of ending up in a brutal prison taught me to take driving seriously. It might seem a bit extreme, but in comparison it’s stupefying how timid Oregon’s penalties are for ACTUAL driver misconduct that maims or kills.

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  • esther c July 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    A $200 or so dollar fine and having her insurance company cover the victim’s costs seems pretty insufficient for maiming and possibly killing someone.

    This woman may have her life altered permanently because this driver chose to not pay attention to the task she had taken on of driving a 3,000 pound vehicle down a highway.

    “A person commits the offense of careless driving if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

    The fact that her driving error injured another person is pretty much prima facie evidence that she met that standard.

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  • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Anyone able to share details of how Christeen is doing? What the DA is saying? Unlike Lois, I never did get a response from The DA.

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    • 9watts May 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm


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    • 9watts December 21, 2013 at 7:12 am

      Bump again.
      Curious that we never heard peep. This case struck me right from the start as particularly egregious. And yet more than a year on we’ve still heard exactly nothing about any further developments. For starters I’d really like to know how Christeen is doing? But there are so many other questions as well.

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      • Alan 1.0 August 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm

        Also: 9watts July 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm.

        Two more Oregon bike riders hit from behind while riding on the right shoulder. Both collisions occurred during daylight. On Tuesday, August 11, 2014, Juan Huapeo Garcia was killed on Hwy 47 north of McMinnville by a van driven by Richard Phillip Travis King, and on Wednesday, Frederick Bouwman was seriously injured by a pickup driven by Norman Chadwick on Hwy 126 east of Powell Butte. No citations issued, investigations ongoing in both cases.

        I would expect to be cited (and possibly more) if I drove my car into a vehicle and only caused property damage. It seems to me that maiming or killing someone due to such carelessness should have harsher penalties than simple property damage.

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        • 9watts August 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm

          I have asked Jonathan in the past whether he could flex his journalistic muscle with DA Marquis or whoever is in charge of this, and find out what is up. These horrific crashes happen. If we’re lucky we get a great piece or three by JM et al. and then the whole thing gets sucked down a rabbit hole and we never hear anything more. We never or very rarely get to understand what happens after the first 36 hours of media attention are over. wsbob and I trade potshots about what might happen, should happen but we’re left hanging.

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          • Alan 1.0 August 13, 2014 at 10:29 pm

            I, too, would like more and deeper followups and I think Marquis, other DAs, police chiefs and judges in general should be pressed about their failure to enforce VRU ORS 811.135, but ultimately I don’t expect to be satisfied by their answers. I think the underlying reason is that they’re simply going along with social mores which accept sacrifice of a few innocents for the convenience of widespread auto dependency (and let’s not even consider that more careful driving could actually enhance society), sort of an “oh gosh, there but for grace go I…” mentality.

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            • 9watts August 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm

              “…they’re simply going along with social mores which accept sacrifice of a few innocents ”

              That is probably what they might say, if pressed. Unmindful(?) that it is they who are setting the tone, instantiating those social mores; providing legitimacy for this shameful lopsidedness.

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              • Alan 1.0 August 13, 2014 at 11:19 pm

                Indeed. The issue of how to pierce that veil of the justice system, how to inoculate it with the intentions the law was implemented with and convince it to carry out the meaning of the words in the law, seem like a ripe fruit for bicycle advocacy orgs to pick.

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        • wsbob August 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm

          “…due to such carelessness…” Alan 1.0

          That’s the rub, right there. People want to presume, rather than prove, that some collisions between people driving and people biking, are due to carelessness on the part of the person driving. If though, you dig up and review the statute for careless driving, you’ll see that some conditions have to be met to cite, charge and find guilty for violating that law. And then, there’s also a ‘reckless driving’ statute. So with which one do you charge somebody, and on what basis?

          Looking at it from the point of view of people in the legal system, responsible for carrying out this law, the question they have to ask themselves, is ‘Do we have, or can we get what’s necessary to charge this person for violating this law?’.

          If somebody would like to propose a new law, or a revision of an old one that says collisions between people driving and people biking, in and of themselves constitute violation of laws such as ‘careless driving’ or ‘reckless driving’, go ahead and give it a shot.

          Sit down and make an effort to actually write some text for such a law proposal. Then, read it back to yourself, and try envision what the proposals’ chances are, of being able to be applied only to people that truly are guilty of careless driving’ or ‘reckless driving’.

          If, by what you write up, all a person responsible for deciding whether to cite for either of those two laws, has to do, is determine whether there was a collision, that certainly simplifies the decision. I kind of doubt a law like that would pass, but it would be interesting passing the idea of it around to see what different people think about it.

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          • 9watts August 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm

            I hear you, wsbob. You have a point.
            But what continues to baffle me is how we got to the point where the threshold for being held accountable for (admittedly unintentionally but nonetheless) killing someone with a car is so much higher than with most other methods, objects, circumstances. You get wrapped up in the definitions of careless driving, and so to do those who write and enforce the laws. But to some of us this is a distraction from the very real, and regrettably somewhat regular incidents of this kind where someone is dead because someone else drove over them with an auto–and again appears to face very little if any legal repercussions.

            The fact that very little of substance changes year after year, that we, for instance, still have no vehicular homicide law is inexcusable.
            Yo, BTA, what’s up?


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          • Alan 1.0 August 13, 2014 at 10:30 pm

            I didn’t mention a statute, wsbob. There was plenty of discussion of 811.135 under Maus’ July 2012 post “Should Hwy 101 collision have triggered ‘vulnerable roadway users’ law?” In it, experts Ray Thomas, Bjorn Warloe and R. A. Willis all agreed that law was intended and is properly worded to apply to drivers like Cortese (and you, wsbob, of course dissented). I’ve read it carefully and I agree; its language covers the actions of errant drivers like Cortese, King and Chadwick. But I didn’t mention that law; all I said was that they were careless. Are you really arguing, wsbob, that a driver who mows over people from behind, people who are legally using the highway within their right-of-way, is being careful?

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            • wsbob August 14, 2014 at 12:45 am

              Alan, don’t think you can treat this as a game and get anything good accomplished. Again, you said: “…due to such carelessness…”. The laws I mentioned, exist to help address the problem of careless and reckless driving. If you were referring to some other law, you should have said so.

              You may have carefully read the law you refer to here but apparently not carefully enough. Ask Ray Thomas. I’d like to hear more of what he thinks about the careless driving law it’s said he helped amend, and the potential for effectiveness that’s possible for the vulnerable road user element of that law to contribute to it.

              “…Are you really arguing, wsbob, that a driver who mows over people from behind, people who are legally using the highway within their right-of-way, is being careful?” Alan 1.0

              No, I’m not making any such argument.

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              • Alan 1.0 August 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm

                Sheesh, get a little cranky when you stay up late?

                I agree that someone in this thread seems to treat discussions as a game. Considering that I actually take a position and attempt to defend it rationally, rather than simply trying to negate others’ thoughts with pretzel logic, I wouldn’t call it me. You tell me what I “should” say, but I’d really just as soon that, agree or disagree, you read and attempt to comprehend what I do say. While you may certainly disagree with my reading of the law, in this case ORS 811.135, that disagreement in no way means I haven’t read it “carefully enough” (which reeks of a passé reading comprehension flame). In fact, I’m honored that my interpretation agrees with that of the three experts I already mentioned, including Ray Thomas, as well as most everyone else in that thread I cited.

                You mentioned you’d like to read more from Thomas (who wrote, lobbied for and help pass 811.135, not “amend” it) so if you haven’t already, see his article on stc-law.com linked from the post I cited.

                I’m glad we agree on the basic idea that it’s careless to mow down innocent road users, which is the gist of my initial post.

                If you’d care to further address the issue rather than attacking me, I might (maybe) consider further response.

                By the way, the injured person I mentioned, Frederick Bouwman, seems to be an accomplished bike tourist with many years of riding under his wheels: http://www.bikefororphans.com/

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