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Hit by Uber driver? Portlander watches as car that hit him drives off

Posted by on January 5th, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Park Blocks 5

SW Park Street, a bit south of the incident described.
(Photo: Marilyn M)

Here’s a troubling incident that doesn’t directly involve a bike, but certainly could have.

Less than a month after Portland became one of the first cities to legalize Internet-based ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, it calls into question the street culture that such services could be creating.

According to a local lawyer, it seems to qualify as a hit-and-run. Police are declining to investigate.

Here’s the account from reader John E. (emphases mine):

Walking to work going East on Alder St, I came to the intersection of Park and Alder about 8:00 AM. Park is a single lane street with parking on both sides. As I get close Car 1 pulls up to the stop sign and is going to turn right and stops. Car 2 (Uber) pulls up next to it as if it is going straight and stops to the side of Car 1 but slightly further back. The two cars are side by side stopped where the red truck in the attached picture is. Both are stopped and traffic is coming from the same direction as me so I start to cross the crosswalk and then Car 2 makes a move as if to attempt to block the view of Car 1. The driver of Car 2 was staring down the driver of Car 1 and seemed irritated with him. In doing so he was looking the wrong direction and moved about a 2 feet forward and struck my right knee hard enough he knew he hit something as he looked panicked but again, I’m okay.

Right after being hit I was a little panicked and my first reaction (later regretted due to a sore hand) was I smacked the hood. I quickly passed through the intersection to get to a safe spot. The driver rolled down his window apologizing but I was angry, scared, panicked, disturbed and really just not sure what to do. I knew I wasn’t hurt so I thought about starting to walk the next 2 blocks to work and then saw that the car was driving past me and never looked over at me so I just kept walking towards work. The driver was a white male about 30 years old (give or take 5 years). I know it was an Uber due to the U sticker in the front windshield. I wished I would have gotten the license plates but it all happened so fast. I went back to the spot and the hotel at that intersection said they had cameras that might have caught it but their facilities person was on medical leave and no one else could help. Macy’s down the street had a camera facing the street but they refused to help unless the police requested it. So I went to the police station and they laughed me off since I wasn’t hurt and told me “good luck.” I didn’t notice if anyone was in the backseat and am not sure if a pickup or dropoff just happened.

Uber sent me an credited me $25 which I wasn’t seeking or had asked for. It was kind but would have been insulting had I actually been hurt. The reason I reached out in the first place was only to try to report the driver so they could hopefully remove bad drivers like that from the road (or at least their employment). I honestly didn’t even expect any response from Uber but was glad they at least responded to say they would investigate it. At this point I’m more upset with the response from the Portland Police but from your website and some others I’ve read it sounds like that is the norm.

John is definitely right about that last bit, at least. In most circumstances, Portland police won’t consider issuing a citation, let alone an investigation, unless an ambulance ride is involved.

But there’s also supposed to be an exception for hit-and-run cases.

Note that despite John’s hunch, it’s not certain that this person was on the job driving for Uber, or even if this is the same person who sometimes uses that car to drive for Uber; all we know is that there was an Uber sticker in the window.

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Also, this was admittedly a slightly ambiguous situation: even John describes himself as not “hurt.” But according to lawyer Charley Gee of the local firm Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton, this probably qualifies as a hit and run under Oregon law.

Since violation of ORS 811.705 Failure to perform duties of driver to injured persons is a felony the appellate courts have interpreted the statute to have a knowingly mens rea (criminal mental state) which is the highest intent to prove. The main case on hit and run is State v. Corpuz 49 Or App 811 (1980), which found that the state must prove the driver knowingly committed hit and run (as in they knew they hit someone and left) but also includes the following:

“The burden is on the driver involved in an accident to stay at the scene and verify that no one was hurt or in need of assistance or to risk severe penalty. We decline to put the burden on the state to prove that a driver knew another person was injured. The state need only prove that defendant knew, or prove circumstances from which it can be inferred that he knew, he was involved in an accident which was likely to have resulted in injury or death to another person.”

State v. Corpuz, 49 Or. App. 811, 820, 621 P.2d 604, 609 (1980).

So in this matter, if the collision was one where a reasonable person would consider likely to have resulted in an injury, then the driver needed to stay at the scene and affirmatively verify that the victim was not hurt. Just looking out your car window and seeing the fact that the person walking is not immobile after the collision is not sufficient.

So if John’s description is accurate, this seems to have been a felony that no one is willing to do anything about.

Uber hasn’t responded to an emailed request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The real question in this incident isn’t about liability or even criminal activity per se. It’s about whether it’s socially acceptable to cruise away after causing an incident like that. And though it’s unquestionably true that this sort of thing happens regularly in Portland, it may make sense for someone — the police, Uber, someone — to hold commercial drivers to a higher standard.

For the moment, we’re glad John is OK, and we’re not looking forward to the next version of this story that we might hear.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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

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Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

Uber driver strikes pedestrian. No injury results. Driver apologizes. Pedestrian starts walking to work. Driver leaves scene. Pedestrian later goes to the police who won’t do anything.

Is this an accurate summary?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

John – if you are serious about bringing collision to court or a settlement, then do not delay in getting the CCTV footage from the hotel.

Depending on the age of their system and its technology (plus state law)…the time period before the unit starts to overwrite its file can be 2 weeks or less…days even. Even if it is a cloud based system, they might have only 7 to 10 days of purchased recording archiving.

[As you wait for the return of the staffer, you may want to request or view the quality of the camera view and file. It may be junk due to the age of the unit or the condition of the camera. Then you would know where you stand.]

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Back to the City’s Taxi Commission and rules…I would hope that PBoT staff and the commission would consider requiring that TNCs (and limos) adopt a more visible roof/ dome light for their vehicles, like a taxi or pizza delivery car, so that such incidents can be easier to document…it would also show if they were in service or not. Plus its advertising too! A win win.

Additionally, I would recommend that TNC & taxi/ limo and other city regulated vehicles not be allowed to use smoked license plate covers, as these can make it even more difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists [and police] to identify vehicles in hit and runs.

kittens
Guest
kittens

Not sure why this is newsworthy. But share your general skepticism and distaste of Uber/Lyft drivers.

They are the very definition of unprofessional drivers. Novices driving around in some of the most congested areas, during the most dangerous hours. What you have are a bunch of suburban dads driving leased Kia’s around blocking traffic lanes, bike lanes, cross walks etc., and driving like tourists.

In summary: the whole fantasy of TNC’s somehow putting us closer to a utopic car-lite lifestyle is silicon valley happy-talk when in fact the do just the opposite. Studies have shown increased traffic in places like Manhattan now that everyone and anyone is acting like a taxi to make a fast buck.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I disagree with the penultimate paragraph. Social appropriateness aside, we need our laws enforced on our roads. Strict enforcement will do a lot more to get butts in saddles than a few so-called protected bike lanes, and there’s no shortage of calls for those.

Seriously, how can BikePortland decry barbaric motorist behavior on “greenways” and not see that this behavior comes from the same permissiveness that is evident in that second to last paragraph?

Corey Burger
Guest

This is one of the big problems with Uber/Lyft/etc: Their cars are easily labelled/identified. If this were a taxi you would have a taxi number and a company, so you don’t need to get the license plate (which is hard to do if you have just been hit/nearly hit).

Adam
Subscriber

The driver hit someone then drove away. Yes, it’s a felony hit and run. Shame on PPB for not taking this seriously. This is exactly why drivers get away with this kind of behaviour.

Adam
Subscriber

The driver rolled down his window apologizing but I was angry, scared, panicked, disturbed and really just not sure what to do. I knew I wasn’t hurt so I thought about starting to walk the next 2 blocks to work and then saw that the car was driving past me and never looked over at me so I just kept walking towards work.

Unless the Uber driver was a mind reader, I’d say that this didn’t count as a stop.

Kevin Wagoner
Subscriber
Kevin Wagoner

Will Vision Zero change the culture of “no investigation” when there is (or possibly is) a crime committed?

Dead Salmon
Guest
Dead Salmon

Clearly, the driver thought the pedestrian was OK since he was walking away normally. The driver rolled down his window and apologized as the pedestrian was walking to work. I think the driver thought that was the end of it. I would have.

The car driver needs to be more careful but I don’t think he did anything criminal. The pedestrian on the other hand – did he have a valid walk signal? If not, perhaps HE needs a citation.

Article above makes a false statement: “John is definitely right about that last bit, at least. In most circumstances, Portland police won’t consider issuing a citation, let alone an investigation, unless an ambulance ride is involved.” ………..The truth is that Portland police issue many thousands of citations each year for a myriad of traffic violations.

Paul
Guest
Paul

I was almost struck by a vehicle when walking across SE Morrison St at SE 9th Ave a few weeks ago. The vehicle (a van which had the Uber logo in the front window) was turning onto Morrison St. I was already more than halfway through the intersection when the driver began to turn. The way the driver started to make the turn did not reassure me that she had seen me. Knowing that it is easier for drivers to see a fixed object rather than a moving one (and because I had no idea if she was about to turn into me) I stopped and looked right into the driver’s eyes. Even though we made eye contact she kept on coming at me.

Only at the last second did she swerve out of the way. I don’t know how to describe it in a way that all the readers here can share the experience, but the way she looked at me, her facial expression (which looked more like disgust and not shock or surprise), and the manner in which she swerved implied she knew exactly what she was doing and that I had not really been in danger. She was simply being a bully and informing me that I should get out of her way because she is more important (or that her time is more useful when pressing on the accelerator than waiting for a few additional seconds for someone to finish crossing the street).

I considered writing a complaint about the incident into Uber (I recall seeing passengers in the van in my peripheral vision) but I never did. And like John E., it all happened so fast.

I don’t know how the TNC business model works (if someone knows, please share), but if drivers are paid by the ride then they are incentivized to speed and act aggressively in order to fit more rides into each hour they operate.

I would like to see all taxi and TNC drivers be required to either have CDLs (or at least be held to a higher standard than a traditional vehicle operating license), or to take on-going driver/safety training like occur for most bus operators in transit agencies across the country. I remember reading somewhere (maybe it was here on BikePortland) that part of PBOT’s Vision Zero will be to host training for all taxi/TNC drivers. I hope this happens soon, and that it becomes an on-going program that all drivers must take once a year.

For every incident where someone is injured or killed, there are countless more close calls and near misses. Vision Zero should not only strive for zero fatalities and injuries, but also zero acts of aggressive driving and zero road bullying. We all want to get somewhere, and we must use the rights-of-way to do so. But we need to do it safely, respectfully, and with a well-mannered attitude.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

How is it any wonder the police don’t prioritize this over the stack of other hit and runs they have on their desk, there are too many inconsistencies within this report. “The driver rolled down his window apologizing” … “the car was driving past me and never looked over at me,” well which is it?

Michael, trying to materialize news out of hearsay delegitimizes bikeportland. If you want to start a rant about Uber, do it somewhere else.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

I find this curious: The person most able to claim injury (the purpose of law) is attributed to state no injury occurred. Many of the bystanders here then decry a lack of enforcement to the sharp pencil letter of the law, when many of those same persons would apply a very fuzzy application of law when it comes to their behavior riding a bike. If ‘no harm, no foul’ is good for the goose, it’s good for the gander.
The law will always be imperfect, that’s why we have judges, etc.

Eric
Guest
Eric

No judgement or instruction or advice, just a factual statement:

Had the cyclist put their U-lock through a window on the offending car, the probability of the cyclist obtaining all of the driver’s information and motivating the police to look into the matter would be exponentially higher.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

So the police won’t issue a citation unless you pony up the $5K for an ambulance ride and emergency room visit.

Sounds like the system is working great for those who designed it.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

PPB needs to take this seriously. The rate of crosswalk and stop bar violations is out of control.

Matt P
Guest
Matt P

Sometimes this content is so whiny. Nothing happened, both parties are un injured.

Matt
Guest
Matt

I was hit by an Uber driver this summer, while working as a courier. It was at Everett and NW 9th, in front of Everett World Foods. It seems overwhelming when considering legal action, as I was also working as an independent contractor at the time of the accident.