Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Careless driving to blame for death of woman in SE Division crosswalk

Posted by on July 11th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

The bus operator was in this lane prior to collision.

The Portland Police Bureau have given the driver of a school bus two citations for her role in a collision that killed a 43-year-old woman who was walking across a southeast Portland street.

Renee Bates was walking on SE Division with her husband Shawn Bates on Tuesday afternoon when they attempted to walk eastbound across SE 148th (from the northwest corner). At the same time, 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel was attempting to make a right turn onto Division from 148th. Neel failed to operate her bus safely and ran over the Bates couple. Shawn was not seriously hurt but Renee died from her injuries later that day in the hospital.

While the investigation into the collision is still ongoing, the PPB just announced that Neel has been issued citations for Careless Driving Causing Death to a Vulnerable Road User and two counts of Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in a Crosswalk.

This is one of the very few cases we’re aware of that has triggered the Vulnerable Road User law. That provision was attached to the Careless Driving infraction thanks to citizen activists and advocates at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance back in 2007. Prior to its existence, Neel would have been able to mail in a small fine and would never have to appear in court for her actions. However, since the VRU statute has been used, Neel will now have to complete a traffic safety course, perform 100-200 hours of community service, have her license suspended, and pay a fine of up to $12,500.

The intersection where this occurred is wide, fast and completely dominated by auto, bus and truck traffic. The right turn lane Neel was using is separated with its own median and the corner is curved to make it even easier for someone driving a car to turn unsafely without stopping.

SE Division is one of (if not the) most dangerous and notorious street in Portland with at least one fatal collision occurring every year for the past few years. It has been identified as one of 10 “High Crash Corridors” by the City of Portland. According to official collision data, the percentage of crashes involving people walking on Division is about 50% higher than the Citywide average. The City has also determined that about 40% of everyone who drives on Division is going faster than the speed limit (which is 40 mph east of 122nd). In an official High Crash Corridor report on Division, the City stated that, “Reckless driving is overrepresented as a crash factor,” on Division.

In their coverage of this incident, KATU reported that, “This is the second almost-identical crash at this crosswalk in just a few years. Because of that, Portland Bureau of Transportation engineers said they will see if they can take any measures to make the intersection safer.”

And yesterday, about 1.3 miles west of this tragedy, a man who was bicycling near the intersection of Division and 122nd sustained life-threatening injuries after being involved in a collision with someone who was driving a van. The PPB has yet to release many details on that incident, except to say that the victim remains in the hospital and is “expected to survive.”

Isn’t it time we said enough is enough? When will the city and their state partners stop hanging banners and working around the edges and start making real changes to the outer portions of Division? Reckless and dangerous driving is clearly the problem here. Until we stop being afraid to address that fact head on — and make engineering and policy changes that have significant impacts on people’s driving habits — nothing will change.

If you’re O.K. with this carnage than just keep doing the same thing. Business as usual.

— Read more coverage of the Renee Bates tragedy at KATU.com.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

37
Leave a Reply

avatar
16 Comment threads
21 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
24 Comment authors
CalebindyYuri Nashunq`TzalDave Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
dmc
Guest
dmc

My condolences go out to Renee Bates and her family.

Too often it seems changes are only made after a fatality. How much new infrastructure must be stained by the blood of the people that have fallen before change.

David
Guest
David

“This is the second almost-identical crash at this crosswalk in just a few years. Because of that, Portland Bureau of Transportation engineers said they will see if they can take any measures to make the intersection safer.”

So it looks like we finally have our answer: two deaths per crosswalk to expect any kind of response from PBOT.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“they will see if they can take any measures to make the intersection safer.”

The correct response: “we will take measures to make the intersection safer”.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Safety. Safety. Safety. How high does the price of deadly danger have to go before safety feels like a “good investment”?

In line with many recent comments about the media’s misuse of the word “accident”, I’m at least pleased to see that KATU has called this a “crash”.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

They need a bigger stop sign.

Peter W
Guest

A recent poll showed that nationwide, support for a 10 cent gas tax is about 23%. That support jumps to 63% if the money would be used specifically to address safety issues.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/transconpdx/6It6fy16juI

PNP
Guest
PNP

Here’s what I don’t understand: why isn’t the driver facing homicide charges? It seems to me that some sort of negligent homicide charge might be appropriate. Are we so inured to the danger of driving that we don’t recognize it as dangerous? Is a person’s life only worth a few thousand dollars and the loss of a license?

I’m particularly sensitive on this question because a few years ago, an unlicensed teenager drove his mother’s SUV over the top of my friend’s car and crushed it so badly that rescuers couldn’t get her out. She died and he got a traffic ticket. This is just wrong.

My heartfelt condolences to the Bates family.

Dwainedibbly
Guest
Dwainedibbly

OMG! THey used the Vulnerable Road User law!

Spiffy
Guest

about 40% of everyone who drives on Division is going faster than the speed limit

that number is too low… I don’t think they’re taking into account that it’s also counting the people that are slowing down and speeding up for red lights and traffic… if there are no red lights and no other traffic then over 75% of people are speeding on every road in the metro area… and I think my number is also a low estimate…

Dave
Guest
Dave

Oh, if I were a hacker—I’d put all personal contact information for killer drivers out where the public could see it, the better for them to be stalked, harassed, and badgered into either cleaning up their act or giving up driving. The strongest degree possible–not nice, or lawful, but possible–of social disapproval has to be directed at these creatures.

Spencer Boomhower
Guest

I can’t help but be reminded of something I just read in the Christian Science Monitor article that was posted in this week’s Monday Roundup:

“If cyclists don’t curb their behavior on their own, police might do it for them. In Santa Monica, Calif., a cyclist was recently sentenced to three years’ probation and 30 days of community service after pleading guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. His offense: running a red light and striking and injuring a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0630/The-bike-boom-video/(page)/6

Personally I don’t have a problem with the defining of a dangerously out-of-control vehicle as a “deadly weapon,” but would hope the definition would extend to vehicles other than just bicycles.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

I’m sorry but I hate the use of the word careless in this article. When you do something that puts other peoples’ lives in danger, that’s not careless, it’s reckless and negligent. Later in the article you change to much stronger wording, but the headline and much of the text seems to downplay the significance. The phrase “Neel failed to operate her bus safely and ran over the Bates couple” seems particularly passive. You would never read an article about someone failing to operate a gun safely and fatally shooting someone else. Both guns and automobiles are tools that are potentially (and frequently) deadly and should be treated as such.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I agree that PBOT is WAY too timid when it comes to responding to dangerous infrastructure. I have them a few times to look at the stretch of Interstate where the auto/bike lanes both narrow under the Larrabee ramp. The bike lane slims down from 5′ to 2′ or so, and the auto lane goes form 16′ or more to less than 10.5′ WITHOUT ANY WARNING! This is simply not enough room for a Bus or full-size truck and a cargo bike to get under the bridge simultaneously. There are some real constraints that would be hard to fix, but it seems like a no-brainer to at least give people some advance warning. The response from PBOT has been that it is too expensive to fix, and crash data doesn’t support doing anything about it. This is a fatality waiting to happen, and now it appears it will take 2 fatalities to get them to announce the pinch point. If PBOT would only add a solid white line to mark a 10.5′ to 11′ auto lane, the areas where there is no buffer would be become evident for everyone so that a first-time road user (truck-driver, tour bus driver, cargo bike rider, etc) could avoid a tragedy.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Sad fact: SE Division Street (formerly Section Line Road) used to be one of the premier cycling routes in SE Portland at the turn of the last century circa 1898-1917), forming part of the Mt. Hood loop to Gresham, along with SE Stark (formerly Base Line Road).

“The Section Line road has been treated to paths four feet wide on
each side, as far as Gresham. Beginning at Seven Corners…these
paths are to be used under the rule “keep to the right,” and
wheelmen going out to Gresham must take the path on the south
side of the road. Coming back into town take the north side. The
rule will be enforced wherever two paths exist on the same
county road, as the safety of pedestrians as well as the wheeling
public will be promoted thereby.”

http://www.cts.pdx.edu/pdf/lundgren_PSUSeminar_113007.pdf

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

Lets just drop all city roads current limits by 10 mph (really won’t effect rush hour where it doesn’t move anyway, might actually be an improvement). Reprogram lights to give faster responces to ped and bike traffic, thus distrupting the timing of lights (which incidently in a car for most the city is about 3 mph below posted limits or 5-8 above).

And how about actual controll lights at cross walks instead of binking caution yellows that most have now.

Of course enforcemnt would also be necessary. But ticket money collected and should be earmarked for safety infrastucture improvemnets and more police for more enforcement (of course fines would have to doubled to make funding possible).

Of course having just renewed my licence in the state I’m still amazed that after 20 years here the only test I ever had to take was 10 questions on a video screen 20+ years ago. I got one wrong cause I didn’t know you could turn left from a two way street onto a one way street in Oregon and chose the safer answer of “no”. But since that test in 92 I haven’t had my eyes checked or taken a single refresher test.

Having taken defencive driving classes for jobs in the past the first thing they tell you is that there is no such thing as an accident, and that techically all accidents are preventable. And really if you get down to it they all are.

And just for the drivers out there, for every mph you drive over the speed limit, the chance that the collision that you are involved in doubles your chance that the collision is fatal.

David Lewis
Guest
David Lewis

Commandeering a 4000 Lb metal box is a serious undertaking, but the privilege to do so is given to 16-year-olds as a birthday present. Drivers’ licenses are birthright in the U.S., and these are the consequences. The only solution is to raise both the age of eligibility and the cost of licensure. I can’t think of politician anywhere who could bother with that!