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Careless Driving citation for truck operator who right-hooked teenager on SE 7th

Posted by on September 16th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

SE 7th and Taylor

A car turns right onto SE Taylor from
SE 7th where a tow truck operator right-hooked a
bicycle rider last month.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Police have cited the tow truck operator who drove his vehicle into a 16-year-old who was bicycling on SE 7th last month. 64-year-old Richard Tombleson was cited for Careless Driving Causing Serious Injury to a Vulnerable Road User. Tombleson was on duty and driving for Speed’s Towing when the collision occurred.

According to the PPB, Tombleson was driving southbound on SE 7th when he turned right onto Taylor. The teenager on a bicycle was also heading south on 7th and he was right-hooked by Tombleson. Tombleson didn’t stop after the collision but he and his truck were found by the PPB shortly after the collision. The 16-year-old sustained “traumatic but not life-threatening injuries” and was taken to the hospital and listed in serious condition.

Even though Tombleson was cited for Careless Driving/VRU, he wasn’t charged with any hit-and-run crimes. PPB spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said the collision was initially investigated as as hit-and-run but that, “After consultation with the District Attorney and family [of the victim] no hit and run charges were issued.”

The section of SE 7th where the 16-year-old was hit has a bike lane and it’s a relatively busy and chaotic thoroughfare. The cross section includes two auto parking lanes, standard-width bike lanes and vehicle lanes in both directions, and a center turn lane. SE 7th is one of the only north-south bike paths on the entire central eastside.

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

  • 9watts September 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I wonder what is up with scrapping the hit and run charge? I don’t know how much it matters since he was cited for Careless Driving (are we making progress on that front? it almost seems so).

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    • tonyt
      tonyt September 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Perhaps he was claiming that he didn’t know he hit anyone and there was no evidence (witnesses) to the contrary.

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      • Psyfalcon September 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        Why does that matter? If knowing is the standard, it must be changed. Everyone should know if they hit someone, so make the law assume they do know.

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        • q`Tzal September 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm

          Unfortunately for your stated opinion many of these laws hinge on the state of mind of the accused.
          I’m inferring (due to lack of knowledge of anything about law other than what I’ve read here) that “hit and run” requires not just the hit but the conscious intent to evade law enforcement.

          None of this absolves him of his crime but it points to a bigger problem, emphasis on the word BIG. It is very easy in a big truck to roll over something the size of a sidewalk curb at less than 5-10 mph and feel little or no tactile feedback in the cab of the truck. I say this from a few years of experience driving big truck-trailer combos; I’d be less inclined to believe this with a “straight truck” (without a hinged midsection – usually a trailer) as any wheel perturbed should translate to a corresponding bump the driver should feel.

          Regardless, if you can’t unequivocally prove that the accused knew the collision occurred AND willfully evaded the law then it is a pointless waste of taxpayer resources to push the charge.

          As someone who is now full time employed driving a big truck and 53′ trailer my opinion is that any vehicle that is capable of running over a person without the driver being aware it happened is fundamentally incompatible with the multimodal urban city scape. In vast truck lots and peripheral highways these trucks are reasonably safe; in tight streets in urban cores it is paralyzingly unsafe as the driver can never be sure a pedestrian hasn’t run in to a blind spot while they are executing a turn. To be truly safe I can’t ever turn in a pedestrian friendly city.

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          • Pete September 18, 2013 at 1:18 am

            …if you can’t unequivocally prove that the accused knew the collision occurred AND willfully evaded the law then it is a pointless waste of taxpayer resources to push the charge.

            Not to mention if you can’t prove that the accused was the actual driver at the time. The DA has to put together evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, so many times a plea will be reached if there’s not significant confidence in a trial win (as Kristi can attest).

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        • q`Tzal September 17, 2013 at 6:30 am

          … so make the law assume they do know.

          the law of the land is “Innocent until proven guilty”; the opposite has historically been a root cause of violent bloody rebellions to overthrow dictatorial regimes.
          I’m reasonably certain that is not what you’re asking for when you suggest that the cure for this sort of problem is to assume everyone is guilty.
          More driver responsibility: yes
          Higher driver certification standards: yes
          Tougher punishment for violators: yes
          Guilty until proven innocent: F#$! NO.

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  • Kittens September 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Why are we letting victims help decide what crimes perpetrators are charged with? What about equal protection under the law?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      When people are hurt and involved in collisions like this, the law is rarely applied in a black/white method. There are humans involved and therefore discretion is often used. I have seen cases where the family of the victim feels the person responsible is genuinely sorry and/or was unable to avoid their actions and they urge the police/DA to have leniency. I have a feeling that’s probably what happened here. The PPB/DA might not have had great evidence and the family was probably satisfied with the Careless/VRU citation and just wants to put the whole thing behind them rather than drag it out with further charges.

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      • Kristi Finney-Dunn September 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        I personally hope the family didn’t “urge” leniency. I’m glad you included your other comment about there possibly not being enough evidence and the family being satisfied with the charges and wanting to move on. Sometimes the best we can do is “accept” the charges. But. …I can only speak from my own personal experience, which includes a belief that a victim’s family needs to not only consider what happened to them but what could have happened to others, and to help prevent the person responsible from hurting others in the future. (I would probably not have thought this way in my “Before”).

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      • was carless September 17, 2013 at 12:35 am

        In Colorado, mandatory arrest anytime criminal charges are filed. Victims have zero say or input in cases; charges can never be dismissed. For anything…

        Just some perspective out there.

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    • shirtsoff September 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      When I was assaulted by a group while bicycling. I decided to not press charges due to the minimum sentencing charges when multiple aggressors target a single person (myself in this story). As a victim of aggravated assault, I say it is a “good thing” to be able to decide whether or not to press ahead with particular charges or not. I don’t see this as a problem so long as the victim understands the choices fully.

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  • Granpa September 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Or the generosity of the settlement encouraged the family to petition for leniency. If they feel they got justice then justice was served.

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    • peejay September 16, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      No it wasn’t, because justice isn’t just for the victim and his family, but for anybody who might be a future victim. Leniency, when it becomes routine, becomes a message to everybody driving that this offense is not serious.

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      • Granpa September 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

        You are correct, but can you expect the accident victim to forgo compensation and hospital bill payment and fight for universal justice?

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      • Kristi Finney-Dunn September 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm

        I whole heartedly agree… even though many people think I was lenient in our case. I guess sometimes people want to be lenient and sometimes we work with what we are given and it looks like leniency.

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  • K'Tesh September 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    “A car turns right onto SE Taylor from
    SE 7th where a two truck operator right-hooked a
    bicycle rider last month.”

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    • John Lascurettes September 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      I believe he means a “two-ton truck operator”; that’s my guess.

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      • dave September 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

        Tow truck operator. He worked Speeds towing.

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        • bendite September 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

          They should change the name to the latest infraction: Don’t Check Mirror Towing.

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  • MaxD September 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I work about one block form this intersection and it is a very unpleasant place to bike. I have been heading north on 6th (instead of 7th) from Taylor. Recently, PBOT added signs at Stark that indicate right turn only (for north and south bound traffic). This puts bikes on Stark which is even less bike-friendly than 7th or Grand! I have just been ignoring the signs the last couple of weeks, and emailed requests to PBOT for an explanation/request for a bike exclusion to the right-turn only have gone un-answered. Does anyone know what is going on with this intersection? A more germane question: Is there a central eastside ped/bike plan that can be influenced or implemented? This area is developing like mad! getting from east of 7th to the esplanade is no picnic, though.

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    • whyat September 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

      Yeah- those new signs are stupid. I can see clearly in both directions. Why do I have to make a right? That puts me in a much more vulnerable position.

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    • Reza September 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Sounds like the upcoming Central City Plan process looking at the SE quadrant is your next best chance to influence the development and implementation of a cohesive bike/ped network in the Central Eastside.

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  • gutterbunnybikes September 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    No hit and run sucks, but depending on how the collision went down I can see where the driver might have not known that it happened. For example if the rider hit the back side of the truck, a cyclist probably wouldn’t even shake the tow truck. Not making excuses, but there are possibilities like that when dealing with such a heavy vehicle.

    The good news is that it at least it looks like the VRU is starting to get some use…about time.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Additionally – the family in discussion with the tow truck driver may have also realized that if the truck driver were to loose his CDL based on the hit-and-run then he may be less able to financially contribute to the medical costs of the cyclist, etc.

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    • was carless September 17, 2013 at 12:38 am

      THIS. I suspect you hit the nail on the head. You can’t squeeze any money out of someone who lost their job…

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      • davemess September 17, 2013 at 7:30 am

        Isn’t that one of the reasons the tow company has insurance?

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        • dave September 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

          Yeah, I call BS. This guy SHOULD lose his CDL (if he had one, not sure the requirements for tow drivers), and it should have no effect on payouts to the victim. If he or his employer were uninsured, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Also, if may sound far fetched…but the PPB/ DA may have felt that they could not 100% tie the truck hit of the cyclist with the truck operator since he did not stop at the scene and was not seen by witnesses either reacting to the incident or being at the crash scene. For all the court knows is that the vehicle was there but the operator could have been switched, etc.

    I have seen similar issues in court stymie cyclists claims for compensation and justice …especially with a jury of MV drivers…a jury of our peers(?). Our current laws and case law do not provide a lot of protection for cyclists (or pedestrians) and especially when they are not able to testify as to who struck them (if they were struck unconscious or dead) and with a witness(s).

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    • was carless September 17, 2013 at 12:39 am

      This doesn’t make sense, since the DA is hitting the guy with a VRU charge.

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  • Kristi Finney-Dunn September 16, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Speaking from experience, I know that the public often doesn’t know the whole story, not only of various details of these collisions but also of the specific whys and hows of the decisions made regarding charges. My first instinct in this case is to be disappointed there is no hit-and-run charge, but I realize there is something I don’t know that resulted in this. I can’t imagine it is because the family wants this driver to continue making money… for them.

    While obviously that could be a valid consideration, it seems unlikely the legal system would choose to simply not charge a crime for that reason. Even though the DA in our case questioned whether she could *prove* manslaughter, she was willing to go forward -if we wanted to risk it- because she *believed* it was manslaughter.

    Maybe there was simply nothing to prove the driver had to have known he’d hit a person; if there has been information about the damage to the truck, I haven’t heard it.

    If the driver truly didn’t know he’d so badly injured someone, I find that disturbing on a whole other level.

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    • was carless September 17, 2013 at 12:42 am

      DA’s normally allow those charged with criminal charges to plea bargain for lower charges, but with the caveat that you are pleading guilty, which skips the trial.

      The DA gets a conviction, and the perp gets off on a lighter sentence and vastly reduced court/legal fees. Something like 98% of all criminal cases end up like this.

      I know, I’ve had family go through this recently.

      This applies to your typical cases – DUI through murder. I believe every state likely follows this model.

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  • jim September 16, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    The city is wise not to pursue this too hard as they will probably end up getting sued for creating an unsafe condition for cyclists. It is never a good idea to have a straight ahead lane to the right of where cars are turning. The city knows this, but are too stubborn to admit they made a bad mistake.

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    • Pete September 18, 2013 at 1:23 am

      Good point. In other states this is often the case yet motorists and bicyclists are required to ‘merge’ – or essentially swap lanes with each other for the duration of the intersection (actually 100′ previous – the bike lane becomes a de facto right-turn lane). Not so in Oregon (though that’s how I ride there anyway).

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  • Mabsf September 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Just a minor thing and somewhat off topic: 16-year old MAN? Wouldn’t he be a teenager? I am just saying because the age range of whom we call man/woman seems to slide lower and lower…

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