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Portland Police announce extra patrols after rise in fatal crashes

Posted by on April 1st, 2016 at 8:49 am

Chief O'Dea

Chief O’Dea is not messing around.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This is not an April Fools post.

The Portland Police Bureau has seen enough. After a troubling spate of fatal crashes on Portland roads, the bureau announced this morning they’ll be doing additional traffic enforcement citywide.

Yesterday’s morning fatal collision on SE Powell Boulevard was the 12th so far this year. That’s up from seven last year at this time. The PPB sends out their Major Crash Team — a special unit that includes experts in crash reconstruction and analysis — each time there’s a fatal or serious injury collision. A statement released by the PPB this morning says that the unit averages about 14 cases in the first three months of the year. However in 2016, they’ve already responded to 23 fatal or serious injury crashes.

PPB Chief Larry O’Dea, a former commander of the Traffic Division, said he’s making the announcement “in response to this devasting series of events.”

In the past few weeks, the Portland Police Bureau has responded to and investigated several fatal traffic crashes in the City of Portland. So far in 2016, the Traffic Division has investigated 12 fatal crashes, compared to 7 last year at the same time. “Of particular concern,” said the statement, “is that many of these crashes have involved vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicycle riders and motorcycle riders.”

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Here’s more from the statement:

Beginning today, March 31, 2016, directed traffic patrols at each precinct, in addition to the Traffic Division, will be conducting extra patrols specifically focused on traffic safety. Additionally, Chief O’Dea is encouraging all officers to conduct more stops of road users for traffic violations and to have a conversation about traffic safety. As always, officers have the discretion of when or when not to issue a citation.

The goal of the extra patrols is to “increase community safety” and “change behavior.” Chief O’Dea says measures like this are necessary “To truly reach the goals outlined in Vision Zero.” “The Portland Police Bureau is committed to working with our partners in government and the community to create safer streets and work toward reducing, and eventually eliminating, traffic fatalities as part of Vision Zero.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, of the 12 fatal crashes so far this year four of the people were driving, two were riding a motorcycle, five were walking (including two people who died walking in lanes of Interstate 5), and one was riding a bike. Six of the fatalities happened in the month March and eight of them occurred east of 104th Avenue.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Adam
Subscriber

It’s sad that it took twelve dead people to get this to happen, but I’m glad to see PPB is putting in the effort and upping enforcement! Hopefully they will maintain this higher level of enforcement permanently.

Heather
Guest
Heather

My bf and I have been talking about all of the bad/scary/rude behavior we’ve seen on the road lately. We both drive occasionally and ride a bicycle around town. It’s downright scary. With the increased population in the last few years, it seems there needs to be an increased police presence and enforcement of traffic laws. Maybe a lot of transplants don’t know the rules of the road or are just too distracted trying to figure out where they’re going but it’s horrifying out there some days! Thanks for PPB for stepping up the patrols. I hope this becomes more of regular occurrence…and maybe don’t tell people well in advance!

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Sounds like PPB will be doing everything possible to avoid issuing actual citations to violators. How well will “conversations about traffic safety” work? Stay tuned.

John Liu
Subscriber

Patrols are expensive, PPD and PBOT need to also increase use of speed reduction measures that do not carry such ongoing costs. Radar speed display signs, speed cameras, double speed bumps before crosswalks, etc.

AJ_Bikes
Subscriber
AJ_Bikes

Speed cameras and red light cameras would provide near-immediate financial disincentives to dangerous driving. Not only would that help reduce dangerous driving (especially if the cameras were either everywhere or mobile and deployed strategically without advance warning), but it would also likely bring in significant revenue that can pay for increased drunk driving prevention/enforcement, infrastructure improvements on high crash corridors, and other uses. Important thing would be to earmark that revenue for specific purposes and not to let it fall into the general fund black hole.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Some how red light camera’s and speeding camera’s are costing $500,000 of budget money to buy and set up. This is nearly a lifetime gross earnings for a lot of people. Hardware wise they are less than $3,000. It must be bureaucrat costs factored in.

David Burns
Guest
David Burns

I seem to recall that these devices are patented, and must be single-souced from a company that charges what they think the community can afford. I guess when those patents run out, the situation may change. (I have no idea when that will / has happened.)

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

The patents ran out a long time ago.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Speed enforcement cameras cost about $35,000 per pole. The vendor does the initial review of the video and photo capture. Police to a secondary review before the citation is issued.
Most of the citation fee goes to the county court or state. PBOT does not use the cameras to generate revenue.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Speed kills, and yet we ignore speeding. Increased patrols would be effective if the stop/warning/ticket is for 1mph over the posted speed — with everyone driving at 10mph over, what can traffic engineering do to keep people safe? They design sightlines and curves for the higher speed, then everybody just drives faster without even noticing. Meanwhile, deaths will increase because speed kills, especially when adding 10mph onto 20 or 30 in a dense, complicated environment.

Speeding tickets won’t do any good if we don’t respect the numbers.

Paul in the 'Couve
Guest
Paul in the 'Couve

Even if they would pull over for 4 or 5 mph over, even 7f they can’t get a ticket to stand up pull them over, make them sit there, run their license aand write them a warning… but stop letting 33mph in a 25 be tacitly legal.

dwk
Guest
dwk

I think the frustration of the gridlock Portland is experiencing on the freeways and major arterials is causing drivers to speed up and “make time”, when they get a chance.
I spend 2 hours a day bike riding in traffic in this town and I have never seen it worse. Speeding, red light running, etc, is rampant.
An excellent time for “revenue raising” for the city. Get with it…..

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

“This is not an April Fools post.”

Sad that you felt compelled to add that opening line, Jonathan, though I completely understand why you did. 🙂

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

Actually, I meant 🙁

(This site needs an edit function…)

Jl
Guest
Jl

The flat out just not paying attention while driving is what has scared me the most this winter

Mark M
Guest
Mark M

Ha! that’s rich.

So PPD is going from no traffic enforcement to “increased” whats an increase from nothing? Slightly better than nothing.

I can just see the precinct shifting rollcall:

“hey guys.. hope everyone is enjoying their doughnuts and coffee today?! So when its convenient after your Starbucks “group meetings” and your pre lunch break, lunch and then post lunch doughnut run… would you mind driving around randomly and looking for cyclists… bah… I mean road users that are breaking any sort of “traffic laws” and take a few minutes to discuss your [limited] knowledge of traffic safety?!
I know your time is limited [between all your breaks] but maybe that last 30 minutes before the last hour [doughnut break] of your shift? maybe?? [crickets…] anyone? ok guys well enjoy the donuts and have a good day out there.”

The shift captain.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

I have heard from PPD and the local prosecuters that tickets and fines do not pay for themselves and are lost revenue. just for minor offences and (stated elsewhere) reckless driving $12,000 is NOTHING!!! an officer or a couple can monitor many single stop lights or crosswalks (take turns) and issue literally hundreds of citations per day. Just make them out ahead of time and then write down the driver’s info. At ~$250-$500 apiece without the $1500 for no insurance or license $1500 would be about $50,000+ per day per officer. Now that is revenue. The officers don’t cost that much. It just might wake up some Portland drivers that are talking on their cell phones and texting. More fines!

Rob
Guest
Rob

Sorry, this math doesn’t work. First, you can’t “prefill” tickets. Case law has rendered this illegal under entrapment rules. Second, your example fails to recognize all the costs associated with prosecution of these traffic citations, including time for the cop to show up to court (often earning overtime to do so), court time, etc. It’s a very costly process. I am all in favor of increased enforcement, but there has to be support from the top (city and county leadership).

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

And the prosecuting attorneys, judges, and the rest of the entrenched workforce are being paid whether they prosecute or not. The price of the tickets needs to be enough to help pay for the overhead.

are
Guest

interesting observation. by setting fines at some arbitrarily low level presumably corresponding with some rough sense of what “fits” the infraction, we are in effect burdening the entire community with the costs of prosecuting a handful of the bad actors. and of course there is no effort at all to account for the social costs, except through [inadequate] liability coverage and civil damages claims.

what if these costs were apportioned only among holders of driver licenses. sharply increased licensing fees. the objections would include (a) group punishment for the misbehavior or a few and (b) the regressive nature of such a fee structure as it impacts people with less money. also of course (c) probably greatly increasing the number of people driving without licensing or liability insurance.

okay, then sharply increased fines. both objections (b) and (c) above would still apply.

bottom line, kids, we are in a difficult moment of transition. an inappropriate technology has become the norm, and it will be awhile before we can unseat it. the consequences are very far-reaching — the entire built environment, from overbuilt roads to forcing the working poor out into the sticks were they pretty much “have to” drive. a lot to undo.

in the meantime, what? the police bureau is proposing to raise public awareness. this may actually be all we can really expect. most of what we have seen over the past few weeks is a result of inattentiveness.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“…the entrenched workforce are being paid whether they prosecute or not.”

But what do we really pay our “authorities” for? In the case of prosecutors, I guess it’s right there in the title, “prosecute”, but why do we pay to maintain the system in general? Isn’t it to provide some kind of structure and order to public life, and—especially in the traffic arena—keep us safe? Does prosecuting do anything to keep people safe? I mean, not prosecuting would definitely seem to not do anything, but is the inverse true? What kind of non-infrastructural change might really help make the streets safer?

Does Oregon have a “point system”, where drivers can get demerits against their licenses? If not, let’s have one of those. All kinds of things could be governed by your “points”: if you have a certain number of points, your fines might be higher for subsequent citations. With a certain number of points, your license could expire sooner. A qualifying point level could require you to attend “re-education” camp for drivers prior to renewing your prematurely-expiring license. Finally, racking up enough points could get your license automatically suspended, and driving while suspended could get your car crushed.

You might even receive points (but perhaps no, or a very small fine) automatically any time you were cited and would have to decide whether clearing those points was worth going to court and fighting for. Maybe you could “buy back” points at an income-indexed rate (rather than having income-indexed fines). Points might drop off of your record at some annual rate, and you might receive points in various-sized batches that would out-pace that rate depending on the severity of an offense. Of course, nothing would preclude arrest and prosecution, or immediate license suspension for severe enough offenses such as drunk driving or intentional vehicular assault.

Enforcement could go hog-wild issuing citations and clog up the DMV instead of the courts (I have to imagine DMV is cheaper than judges and cops). Fees for “re-education” might cover its costs, and revenue from points that are “bought back” could be used to further defray enforcement costs. There would still be equity issues and concerns over disproportionate enforcement, but if points were (at least initially) “free”, in that fines weren’t immediately necessary, then at least there would be a buffer there.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Enforcement is also education, and not just for those receiving the citations.

Most people have little shame and see the tickets as a burden, and freely tell everyone in their circle of friends, family and coworkers about the experience – and usually about how unjust it was. It’s a great way to get the word out on some of those important but not well know infractions.

Now if we could get traffic fines increased to actually cover the cost of the courts and officers time in issuing the tickets and court time traffic patrols would pay for themselves.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

As long as police are allowed to not write citations for offenses that they not only see but take the trouble to do a traffic stop for, this isn’t going to make much difference. Actually, it will make a negative difference since PPB will now say, “Hey, we massively increased our focus on traffic safety and it didn’t make a difference.”

We really, really need a massive increase in traffic law enforcement. This faux enforcement, likely driven by the shame of the state of roadway behavior in PDX, isn’t anything to get excited about.

are
Guest

“didn’t make a difference.” seems like you have already seen the results.

Christopher Jones
Guest
Christopher Jones

This is great news. Any effort to calm traffic is an effort I am in favor of.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

I’m never one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so I’m happy to thank PPD for increased enforcement. It can only help.

At the same time, I’m never one to sit complacently just because I’ve been offered something positive. So I’d also like to encourage PPD to do more than just “increased” enforcement, and try to figure out how to do *enough* enforcement.

What would enough enforcement look like? How would we know when we’re there? What would the priorities be? There’s a lot of work to be done, and precious few person-hours available to dedicate I’m sure. One thing I know, though, is that if we’re serious about reducing traffic violence we’ll need to start that hard work sooner rather than later.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

A metric for when we have enough enforcement should be pretty easy to devise. One can simply randomly select several locations inside the city and observe the percentage of motorists at those sites who are operating outside the law, with a strict interpretation (cross the limit line without stopping and you ran the stop sign/red light).

Currently, it’s likely a majority, but it would be fascinating to have some real data in this regard. It would be even more interesting to divide the sites into various categories (arterioles, residential streets, commercial streets, school zones and so on).

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

A sight of adequate enforcement would be atainment of Vision Zero not Zero Vision like the current status of enforcement.

David
Guest
David

Things might be different if Chief O’Dea would just on a bike and ride around town. He’d have a different perspective and it might help him get back in shape.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

If he would like a senior (72) pacemaker I would be willing to give him a hand and target to follow or ride with. How about it Chief?!

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

This announcement today (regarding human resources AND top down orders) is an important step in the right direction.

[Though given the adoption of VZ not sure why it took this long. They should have been in lock step.]

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

It is good that the PPB is beginning to enforce some of the existing rules. Not like last year when there were 4 police cars, 2 motorcycles called by a Multnomah County deputy. To a major left hook near fatality (8 days in OHSU Intensive care with 7 surgeries). No citation issued. even though the deputy saw it from 100 feet away (following the cyclist).

Ovid Boyd
Guest
Ovid Boyd

I’m glad the city is taking action. But it is simply not enough. People are literally dieing, which is completely unacceptable.

The city ought to declare an emergency, reduce speed limits to 20 on non-interstates, and consider banning cars from roads that lack adequate bike/pedestrian/traffic calming infrastructure until that can get built.

Handing out a few tickets for a couple weeks and asking drivers to be a bit more careful is just not sufficient response to people being killed.

still riding after all that
Guest
still riding after all that

Without meaning to criticize or support the PPB or police in general, I would urge anyone who has not been on a ride-along to sign up and spend a day observing and learning about what police officers encounter in the course of a work shift.

I have been on a ride-along with a PPB officer, and found it very educational.
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/526074

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

As have I.

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

…The PPB sends out their Major Crash Team — a special unit that includes experts in crash reconstruction and analysis — each time there’s a fatal or serious injury collision….

In theory, perhaps. From personal experience, it’s not always so. There seems to be a degree of officer discretion with non-fatal injury crashes, in determining whether to invoke the Major Crash Team. I’m curious to hear an official PPB statement about that.

SE
Guest
SE

The “O” story that you link to has an embedded video.

this was a motorcycle that struck a truck. The witness says that the cycle was “going 80+ and weaving in and out of traffic” .

In this case I think some victim blaming is justified.

SE
Guest
SE

And I’ve noticed that with the better weather , MANY motorcyclists have been OUT OF CONTROL” . They are maxing it out whenever possible. Full Bore, see what it can do.
Expect a lot more of these fatalities as the weather improves and Police enforcement won’t stop it.

slowrun
Guest
slowrun

It would be great to see more enforcement, especially on powell. Catching speeders on powell would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Traffic patrols will now actually doing their jobs…. for the next week, until this blows over.

When asked what the patrols have been doing, and will return to doing after the publicity dies down… Just kidding. Surely nobody had the balls to actually ask the question everyone was thinking.