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PBOT, Police stepping up enforcement of traffic laws

Posted by on July 25th, 2013 at 11:57 am

Wheeler Ave traffic and meeting-10

To improve safety, the police are on high alert.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we told you that Portland Mayor Charlie Hales was rolling up his sleeves to improve road safety. Today he and Commissioner Steve Novick teamed up with the Portland Police Bureau to launch a key component of that effort.

Hales and Novick have ordered the PPB to blanket notoriously dangerous roads with enforcement resources. This “crackdown” on dangerous road users comes after what the City describes as “An unusually high number of traffic fatalities so far this year.” “The public needs to know driver awareness can help keep the roadways safe,” reads their official statement.

“People are dying or being injured on Portland’s streets from traffic crashes that often can be avoided.”
— Michael Reese, Portland Police Chief

Mayor Hales is imploring road users to take it upon themselves to operate their vehicles “without undue distraction”. “You have the power… But it takes all of us, equally, to make that difference,” said Hales.

In a positive sign of collaboration, the City’s statement about the crackdown included comments from Hales, Novick, and Chief of Police Michael Reese. “We have had 23 fatal crashes this year compared to 17 at the same time last year,” Chief Reese said. “People are dying or being injured on Portland’s streets from traffic crashes that often can be avoided.”


And to bring the need for this crackdown into context, the City also provided some stats about this year’s road carnage so far:

  • To date in 2013 there have been 23 fatal traffic crashes in the City of Portland. There were 31 in all of 2012.
  • At this time last year, there had been 17 fatal traffic crashes.
  • Breakdown of 2013 fatalities: 14-motor vehicle; 3-motorcycle; 6-pedestrian; 0-Bicyclists
  • 12 of the 23 fatalities have involved impaired drivers with BAC’s ranging from .15 – .25%
  • Of the 6 pedestrian fatalities, motor vehicle drivers have been at fault in 4 of them
  • There were 4 traffic fatalities in 6 days from July 5 to 11. Two involved speeding and impaired drivers.
  • Driver/pedestrian distraction or inattention: 4 of the 6 pedestrian fatalities could have been avoided if the pedestrian and/or driver were focused on their actions

The PPB has also taken to their Twitter account to promote today’s crackdown. They’re posting updates about collision stats and announcing the location of their targeted enforcement missions. They’ve also unveiled a live map of traffic stops. They’ll focus on two locations today: from noon to 3:30 pm they’ll be out at SE Division Street, from SE 82nd to 162nd and then from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm they’ll be at SW Barbur Boulevard, from SW Hamilton to Capitol Highway. Both of those locations are on the City’s list of 10 ‘High Crash Corridors.’

We’re happy to see more enforcement, and the communication from PBOT and PPB to the public about the seriousness of this issue is also a welcome sign. However, it will take much more than enforcement to make streets safer. We need policy and legal changes, as well as a re-think of how we spend state and local transportation safety funds. We hope to report more on those fronts in the weeks and months to come.

In the meantime, drive and ride safely and let us know if you notice the increased police presence.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • jim July 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I think some of these crashes might be a result of people talking or texting on the phone while driving. Following too close is also an issue. I have seen a number of chain collisions lately.

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  • GlowBoy July 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Yep, plenty of distracted driving these days. Every fifth driver has a phone glued to their head, even though that’s blatantly illegal. Every 20th driver or so seems to be actively tapping or looking at the screen on their cellphone. On several occasions I’ve seen someone driving along, holding their phone in front of them, watching a video.

    If cops have time to do stings on prostitution and cyclists running stop signs, I’d sure like to see them do the same thing with distracted driving. Have one cop hang out in a discreet spot next to a busy road, spotting (and of course recording) people fiddling with their phones while in motion, and 1 or more cops downstream ready to pull them over. It would be ridiculously easy. Heck, if the cops don’t do it, maybe we can get some volunteers together and do “citizen stings” (not trying to stop and confront the drivers, but at least let them know they’re being watched and maybe still referring the very worst incidents to PPB or the DA?)

    OTOH, I’d been been starting to think that texting is the new drunk driving, with alcohol now down to 1/3 of road deaths nationally … but then I noticed above that 12 of last year’s 23 fatalities in Portland involved BACs of at least .15 (nearly twice the legal limit). Looks like we’re still in the 1980s when it comes to drinking and driving here.

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    • JRB July 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Unfortunately, Oregon’s statute banning cell phone use while driving has a loophole large enough to drive a semi through. People are still allowed to use cell phones while driving if it’s work-related. All an offender has to do is tell a law enforcement officer that they were having a work related conversation and the cop, who is generally not going to be able to prove otherwise, is not going to write a ticket. This loophole needs to be closed, yesterday.

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    • Dave July 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      Yes-this applies to cyclist too. Yesterday while riding my bike home from downtown via the Hawthorne a cyclist was talking on his cell phone while riding. It sure was not pleasant to ride behind this guy while he swerved left and right along a shared path.

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  • kittens July 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    A picture of a cop stopping a cyclist? Nice click-bait.

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    • RWL1776 July 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      One block to the east of that spot is a marked crosswalk. Just last week I was driving on that stretch of road and stopped at that crosswalk for a pedestrian, and so did the 2 other lanes of auto traffic. As the pedestrian attempted to legally cross the street, a group of 6 or so cyclists approached the crosswalk…….and blew right thru it with out stopping, and almost hit the poor guy. So, yes, that is a perfect picture, with appropriate subject matter, on a stretch of road where I have witnessed numerous cyclists break the rules of the road daily.

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      • Glen K July 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        I would agree; no-one should be immune to a step up in law enforcement, bike riders also have to up their game.

        What would be interesting to know however is the relative proportions of citations by mode or infraction type. I’ve seen numerous “bicycle safety” enforcement blitzes where the end result has been a lot of citations for bike riders only, even when we know from research that the majority of bicycle crashes are the fault of the other party.

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  • JL July 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Remember that there is nothing stopping all of us from issuing citations just like the police can. Same form.

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    • Spiffy July 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      yes, there is something stopping us, window tinting (and bad viewing angles)… if you can’t see the driver then you can’t issue a citation… I have video of hundreds of people breaking the law, daily, but you can’t see their faces…

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    • Greg July 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Can you provide more information about that? Have you ever issued a citation?

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    • jeff July 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      really? I’m going to go ride in Ladd’s Addition and hand them out to about 90% of cyclists then.

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    • Ted Buehler July 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Nothing $2100 can’t buy.

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  • Spiffy July 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    traffic crashes that often can be avoided.

    I’d like to know which ones they thought couldn’t be avoided… and what they’re doing about it now that they know it’s unavoidable…

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    • 9watts July 25, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      “Breakdown of 2013 fatalities: 14-motor vehicle; 3-motorcycle; 6-pedestrian; 0-Bicyclists”

      It seems that the mode designation refers to what the victims were using/sitting in? There are so many other ways to slice these crashes; so many unasked questions about how this all comes about.

      How many of the ones designated ‘motor vehicle’ were single vehicle crashes?
      When we are invited to infer that two of the six pedestrians killed were at fault, what details might help us understand whether that determination was made in good faith. As I’ve noted here before, in other countries fault is assigned differently in crashes where a car kills a pedestrian.
      Were any of the deaths tabulated caused by someone riding a bicycle?
      What about injuries? Deaths are more dramatic, certainly, but being more numerous we might learn more by including injuries in our statistics.

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  • Ron July 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    This all sounds great, but I wonder if it is just a PR blitz by the PPB and mayor. As others mentioned, people tailgate, pass on the right, speed through neighborhoods witout any consequence. NE Fremont is a nightmare, with cars far exceeding the 20 mph zone and ignoring pedestrians at crosswalks, often while there are 4 police officers sitting in Starbucks or Grand Central.

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    • SilkySlim July 25, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Heck yeah PR blitz!! Enforcement is great, but we really need to just have dangerous vehicle use (speeding, texting, etc.) to be as blatantly villainous as drunk driving. I hope every action they take has a public relations twist. Tickets on Division at rush hour – a great idea. 10,000 will drive by those flashing blue lights.

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    • Yuri Nashun July 27, 2013 at 11:04 am

      I frequently use Skidmore between Interstate and MLK and the 25 mph speed limit there is a joke. The buffered bike lanes over I-5 are nice and all but some speed enforcement sure would be nice.

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  • Spiffy July 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    O’live believes that it’s hard to get a ticket while driving your car… they announced this news as “You’ve been warned: It’s going to be easy to get a traffic ticket in Portland on Thursday” as it’s so hard to get a ticket on any other day… well, actually it is hard to get a ticket any other day… we all know that drivers get away with too much… they also state that pedestrians and bicyclists will not be exempt from the increased enforcement, likely because of all the deaths they also cause…

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  • Indy July 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Can they enforce the 25 mph limit on the sellwood? Cars easily go ~40 on this. This is a construction zone and the city can make back some of the $$$ it’s spending on that bridge from the Clackaparasites.

    I personally think zero leniency for speeding. What is the point of a speed limit if it’s rarely or lackadaisically enforced?

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    • RWL1776 July 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      They do. My idiot neighbor got a $525 speeding ticket for going 39 mph over the bridge. On a Saturday morning. A motorcycle cop sits across the street from everyone’s favorite dive strip club, the Riverview Corrall.

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    • q`Tzal July 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Construction funding through construction zone fines… I like it!

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    • Hillsons July 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      No joke, I see more people speeding like bandits through that one construction zone than I do the entire rest of my commute, and when I drive through there in my car I am forced to speed for fear of being rear ended. If you change a speed limit, you have to enforce it.

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      • Dave July 26, 2013 at 9:16 am

        I have thought for many years that contruction zone flaggers ought to be armed, preferably with very high-powered automatic or semiautomatic rifles. Let the arms be visible–no reason you couldn’t mold a plastic rifle stock colored Pearl Izumi yellow. Have them wear bandoliers of bullets around their shoulders so that the point gets through even the thickest motorist skull. No irony or humor intended here–drivers are lethally armed, flaggers should be as well.

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        • q`Tzal July 30, 2013 at 11:22 am

          Set up fake construction zone/obstacle courses in heavy DUI areas. Anyone that clips a cone gets pulled over and tested. This wouldn’t be profiling because it allows an officer to make a 1st hand observation of a lack of coordination or skill.

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  • Ted Buehler July 25, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    If you approve, consider sending a thank-you note to Hales and Novick. They probably get some flak for this from the “don’t your cop have anything better to do than fine me for some minuscule offence” crowd.

    & tell them where you want to see their next enforcement.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Spiffy July 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

      I emailed the mayor to thank him for the stepped up enforcement and asked that he keep it up for motor-vehicles…

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  • Hillsons July 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    It’s encouraging to see the Portland Police Chief echoing the cause for concern. But, a cultural change is required. Part of the reason everyone flies around at top speed is that enforcement is slim to none, and there is little consequence for said harmful behavior.

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  • Rob Chapman July 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    For shits and giggles I just spent 45 minutes watching the four way stop at N Shaver and N Montana with a glass of lemonade in hand. Our neighborhood gets used a lot by people cutting through when Interstate gets backed up.

    Out of 46 motor vehicles 3 came to a complete stop. Out of those three only one stopped in the absence of other vehicles. It was a marked work truck. Both UPS trucks I saw only slowed enough to make their turns, pretty rotten behavior from “professional” drivers. One Car2Go sailed through at full speed. My neighbor who was complaining about people blowing the stop signs earlier this week, yep blew the stop sign. I shamed her on Facebook, it seems fair.

    For the bike hating trolls here I counted 7 bikes, only one of whom stopped. For shame. At least the bike riders made double digit percentages of stop sign compliance on the bright side.

    My neighborhood has almost one what 3-4 thousand pound bullet per minute rolling through the stop signs on a corner where almost every, if not every corner has kids and pets living on it. That’s a serious effing problem.

    Glad to see the PPB getting after it, make that money cops!

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  • gutterbunnybikes July 25, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Humm, or is it an excuse to put a few more cops on the street for the Brewfest?????

    Not that that is a bad thing.

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  • 9watts July 25, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Hear, hear.
    Flashy pre-announced stings are hardly the last word on reducing fatalities from motor vehicles.
    Enforcement, the kind that sticks, is an everyday thing. If Hales and Novick are serious I’d think they would be able to say something like:

    ‘From this day forward there will be zero tolerance for distracted driving within the city limits. I/we are assigning 12 (or whatever # of) officers to ticket drivers who are using cell phones or in other recognizable ways driving distracted. We will update you regularly through the usual channels about how this is going. We take distracted driving seriously and are setting up trainings* for our police to learn to avoid this behavior themselves.’

    *Other cities are doing this, why can’t we?

    even Beaverton has done something about this:

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  • Paikikala July 26, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Comparing last year’s crashes to this years is pointless. If last year had 40, would we think we were doing great? (the conclusions are false in either direction in equal measure). Fatalities are random events, the result of many different factors. Multiple years of review are needed to find any true trend. Even then the conclusions are suspect because the sample size is so small. One year comparsion is useless.

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    • Spiffy July 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Fatalities are random events

      this is the kind of attitude that makes it impossible to hold people responsible… it’s not a random event; a healthy tree didn’t get blown down in a storm… people made decisions that lead to people’s deaths… it’s not random and it’s not acceptable…

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  • TOM July 26, 2013 at 9:43 am

    My pet peeve is : SE 122nd & Halsey . That is THE WORST intersection for right hooks that I’ve seen anywhere. Even with a “walk light” and in the ped crosswalk , the cars turn like you are invisible. Even in my bright greens , they do it , and it’s not just me. Have witnessed wheelchair users nearly get clipped. There is nothing inherently dangerous about the intersection, just the drivers. Also the new strobe lighted crossing at the Midland library is nice, but USE WITH CAUTION. Even when 3 lanes of cars stop for you, many times some driver in that 4th lane will come sailing through ignoring the lights and all other stopped lanes , need a camera there.

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    • Spiffy July 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

      it’s sad that on the rapid-flash crossings the automated voice says to cross with caution because vehicle may not stop…

      these should have been stop lights, not yellow flashers…

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    • Spiffy July 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

      I went through there a couple weeks ago and witnessed exactly that… I couldn’t believe how close the cars were coming to people in the crosswalk…

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      • TOM July 26, 2013 at 11:05 am

        Spiffy …wish I could give you MORE than 1 thumbs up on your 2 posts.

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  • Opus the Poet July 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I agree with the poster above that said traffic enforcement needs to be a daily practice, not a special event. but I would be ecstatic over an enforcement “event” in my town, I was hit by a car passing me on the right in my lane last month and even with the guy’s broken mirror as evidence I had a heck of a time getting the cop to write the ticket for the illegal pass. He also tried to tell me I couldn’t make a left turn on my bicycle unless I was walking it across the street. I had to set him straight on that by quoting the section and paragraph numbers from the vehicle code stating that was what I was supposed to do, as well as the parts that made my bike a vehicle, and the parts that gave me the rights and privileges of a vehicle.

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