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.”