Oregon State Police hand out 317 tickets and 273 warnings in 48 hours

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

Illegal. Dangerous. Common.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Three weeks after the State of Oregon declared a culture war against distracted driving, they launched the first battle and the results of a “saturation patrol” show just how commonly people break the law while driving.

Over just just 48 hours in Central Oregon last weekend, troopers from three counties issued 317 traffic citations and issued 273 warnings. The officers specifically targeted behaviors that contribute to serious injury and fatal crashes like speeding, lane violations, and impaired and distracted driving.

Here’s the full breakdown:

– Speed citations: 172 warnings: 61
– Seatbelt citations: 17 warnings: 18
– Lane violation citations: 14 warnings: 38
– Cell phone citations: 15 warnings: 10
– DUII arrests: 9
– Other traffic crime arrests: 5
– Warrant arrests: 3
– Minor in Possession: 2
– Open container: 2
– Misc citations: 99 warnings: 146

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Keep in mind that the areas patrolled are rural and have low population density and traffic volume. Just imagine how many violations they would uncover if they did an enforcement action like this in Multnomah County.

A recent analysis of crash data by the Oregon Department of Transportation showed that between 2010 and 2014, a distracted driver is involved in a crash every 2.5 hours and a person is injured because of distracted driving every 3 hours. A recent survey by AAA found that over a 30-day period, 70 percent of people admitted to talking on their phone while driving.

Hopefully the State Police will keep up this pressure and continue to do enhanced patrols. If they were able to do these regularly, we might not need a new statewide transportation funding package.

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

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Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy
8 years ago

Now we need more of the saturation patrols in Metro area (Beaverton included) and no minimizing the fines. Make the patrols pay for themselves. Guaranteed the gang task force will get a big boost in their case loads by having guns confiscated.

Wyatt
Wyatt
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom Hardy

I’m curious as to how routine traffic stops are going to lead to a major uptick in gun confiscations. Do you want every traffic stop to turn into a full on search and seizure? I’m not sure that’s what you’re saying, but it seems implied.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom Hardy

Fines tend to hit poorer drivers hardest. For rich drivers, a fine is merely part of the cost of doing business, a bit like a bribe, but to the system, rather than to individual officers. Confiscation of vehicles would be a far more effective deterrent, as would detention, no matter how briefly, of the drivers themselves. However, when it was suggested to the City of Portland in the past (usually related to outer Division or 122nd), the police themselves pointed out (rightly, I think) that such enforcement actions will likely lead to disproportionate citations against blacks and immigrants, as well as take away officers from working on murders and other violent crimes in the community.

jeff
jeff
8 years ago

no fines hit any driver if they’re obeying traffic law.

bikeninja
bikeninja
8 years ago

I have an Idea,we can just replace ODOT with an enlarged permanent version of this task force. Most safety problems will be solved, and little new car infrastructure ( the only kind ODOT knows) will be needed because a lot of bad drivers will be taken off the road and traffic volumes will go down.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
8 years ago
Reply to  bikeninja

My understanding is that gas taxes in Oregon must be used to build stuff. The task force is into enforcement, not building stuff. Not that ODOT builds much, or anything particularly useful, but…

Paul Atkinson
Paul Atkinson
8 years ago

In 48 hours, their “saturation” patrols produced FIFTEEN cell-phone citations?

That is so wrong. That’s terrible. It’s pathetic, it’s awful, it’s worthless, it’s…I’m off to consult a thesaurus. That’s how many I could give out per HOUR on my bike commute.

What’s it going to take to get some enforcement on that?

Tim
Tim
8 years ago

When I pass a line of cars at a stop light, I can tell who is playing with their phone by the catawampus cars and cars that don’t go when the light turns green.

KristenT
KristenT
8 years ago

That, and in some rural areas, there really isn’t a lot of cell service.

fourknees
fourknees
8 years ago

Or there is the technique that was shared in the Monday Roundup last week: Austin police officers have been boarding buses to see if drivers are using cell phones, then radio to a motorcycle cop. That not only provides enforcement, but everyone on the bus also visibly sees enforcement is happening maybe reducing their distractions when driving.
http://keyetv.com/news/local/austin-police-use-bus-to-catch-drivers-on-phones

K'Tesh
K'Tesh
8 years ago
Reply to  fourknees

Those buses were “not in service”, so there were no passengers aboard them, only the driver, cops, and reporters.

Paul Atkinson
Paul Atkinson
8 years ago

OOooooommmmm.

I will focus on solutions, not on the problem. I will focus on solutions and not on the problem. I will focus on solutions and not on the problem.

Right. So. The announcement of saturation patrols to reduce distracted driving appears to have been a no-op, and in any case never targeted the city streets. There are a number of positive proposals, but no one in a position to put them in place appears to be taking them seriously.

Is Chief O’Dea the right person to hear a message about this, or should that go to someone else?

Is there a legal(ish) way that one can take to bring action against distracted drivers individually?

patrick
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Atkinson

My daughter and I entertain ourselves waiting for the bus by counting drivers who are looking at their phones. Totally unscientific, but it works out to about 10%. All they gotta do is stand at N Greeley and Jessup at morning rush hour and it’d be like shootin’ fish in a barrel.

Dan A
Dan A
8 years ago
Reply to  patrick

Yep, just one plain-clothes officer on a corner, who can radio to a patrol car down the road.

lyle w.
lyle w.
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan A

The PPD would do something like that if they cared…. just like they’d do repeated bike theft stings.

They don’t, so this is what we get.

Chris I
Chris I
8 years ago
Reply to  patrick

I was doing this last week while waiting for a bus on Sandy Blvd. in outer-NE Portland (45mph speed limit: actual speeds 45-60mph). Straight stretch of road, good visibility. I witnessed about 1/5 people actively looking at their phone while driving 45-60mph. It was a terrifying realization. This problem is only going to get worse, and more people are going to die every year until something is done about it.

mran1984
mran1984
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Atkinson

Ha! The phone is the single most important item for the “modern” citizen. Most folks can’t use the restroom without clutching their precious phones. As long as most of you embrace this device as the single most important “thing” ever this will be an issue. Be present where you are. Dating must be so much fun while two people stare at their phones instead of each other. Pedestrians feel the absolute right to enter an intersection without looking while they are captivated by their phones. They are the priority, right? Worst tool ever created. A magic carpet would be a far cooler invention.

James Sherbondy
James Sherbondy
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Atkinson

Maybe they really don’t use their phones as much in rural areas? I know in a lot of places on the dry side and in the boonies, the signal strength isn’t all that good. Also, I think “phone distraction” is a result of congestion. People are so bored in their cars, they “need” that phone to keep them occupied. Rural areas tend to not be as congested. Might be something.They sure drive like all hell’s on their tail though and that shows in the citations.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
8 years ago

Note the DUII share is a bit smaller than when we have a crosswalk enforcement action. And this is a 48hr sample, not mid-afternoon on a workday. How about some automated stop light breathalyzer drones?

pdxperson
pdxperson
8 years ago

What about citations for bikers that think they own the road? There are 10% of drivers that ruin things for everyone because of their driving, and there are 10% of bikers that are incredibly entitled and feel like they own the road ahead of drivers and pedestrians. We need more enforcement on bikers too, not just drivers.

Dan A
Dan A
8 years ago
Reply to  pdxperson

Entitled? Don’t you mean ‘uppity’?

Tim
Tim
8 years ago
Reply to  pdxperson

Rude cyclists may be annoying, but they are not killing 40,000 a year in the just the US. Cyclists aren’t even on the list of causes of death in children, let alone the leading cause of death.

We can start worrying about annoying cycling when drivers are not killing tens of thousands because they can’t put down the phone, drive a safe speed or just had to have another drink.

paikiala
paikiala
8 years ago
Reply to  Tim

Annual US Fatals are in the low 30,000’s per year. The majority of those killed are vehicle occupants. Half those killed are drivers. about 5,000 per year are pedestrians.

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

BB
BB
8 years ago
Reply to  paikiala

Which doesn’t even come close to taking into account the number of people permanently maimed by crashes or the negative health effects of concentrated constant burning of fossil fuels in population centers or the medical side effects of ubiquitous automobile usage. Don’t bicker.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
8 years ago
Reply to  pdxperson

Maybe the people you see biking are trolling in similar fashion to your comment, or perhaps they are riding safely and legally in a primary lane position across a sharrow of entitlement, which is indeed public property that we all own.

Spiffy
8 years ago
Reply to  pdxperson

they DO own the road… so do YOU… WE all own the road…

so play by the rules and let everybody use our roads…

people on bikes get tickets like everybody else… keep in mind that this was a State Trooper enforcement and there aren’t as many bikes out on state roads as there are on city roads…

Pdxperson
Pdxperson
8 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

Totally agree. There are drivers and cyclists that cause the problems and make it dangerous for everyone. It’s not just one or the other. Most people are respectful and rational.

Tim
Tim
8 years ago
Reply to  Pdxperson

But it is not cyclists that are making it dangerous for everyone – only drivers pose a danger to others.

Spiffy
8 years ago

6.6 citations per hour…

how many troopers were on the road? how many are there usually?

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
8 years ago

“taken off the road”

What do you mean? Nothing takes drivers off the road short of actual incarceration. No insurance? No problem. No license? No problem. Chances of being caught for these are slim, and the punishment is continued suspension of license plus a fine. Somebody won’t or can’t pay the fine? Just fine them more, which they still won’t pay, but they’ll keep driving around.

Literally getting bad drivers off the road is nearly impossible in the USA.

Tim
Tim
8 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

Confiscation of vehicle and large fines or prison for the sale of vehicles to people with a suspended or revoked license would be a good start.

lyle w.
lyle w.
8 years ago
Reply to  Tim

I’d be happy with mandatory cellphone jammers in your car, like an interlock device, if you have proven you can’t drive without being distracted. Which means more than one citation within a specific period of time.

I’d imagine some people just see it as tax, if they actually do get cited, and don’t let it dictate their behavior in any way.

Tim
Tim
8 years ago
Reply to  lyle w.

Laws and costly devices to prevent the breaking of other laws never appealed to me. What about passengers, should they be able to look up information and make calls? Why not just ban cell phones entirely. I got along fine for 4o years without a cell phone.

Dan A
Dan A
8 years ago
Reply to  Tim

Start by just taking their keys. No license? Give me your keys. Bye bye.

Adam
Adam
8 years ago

What is a warning? Just like a slap on the wrist? Are there any ramifications for getting a warning?

Skid
Skid
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Usually a written warning is issued if you do not have any recent violations on your driving record. If you get pulled over again in the near future a previous written warning will guarantee you a ticket. I like this practice, I think it creates compliance because it helps you to see Police in a good light, that they are trying to make the streets safe rather than just prosecute people and generate revenue.

Kyle Banerjee
8 years ago

The level of citations — particularly for cell phones — seems low. Depending on where enforcement took place, drivers may have been able to argue that they were parked since the car wasn’t moving and therefore couldn’t be distracted from driving….

I bike commuted a 20 mile stretch of 99W for 10 years. Cell phones were the least of my worries. Every day, I saw people putting on makeup (why do driver side visors even have makeup mirrors), reading, working on laptops, etc while driving 65mph as part of their daily routine. It’s amazing what some people will do when behind the wheel.

Spiffy
8 years ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

you can get a DUI while parked because it’s considered driving… I sometimes wonder if they’ll start applying the same logic to cell phone use…

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
8 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

Except you can instantly “sober up” from distraction, unlike intoxication.

Carrie
Carrie
8 years ago

The other day I was on the bus and we were waiting at a red light. I looked over at a young, 20-something driver and he was NOT on his phone. Just looking out the window, waiting for the light to turn. I was shocked. It made me want to write a letter to his mother and tell her what a fine young man he was.

lyle w.
lyle w.
8 years ago
Reply to  Carrie

Someone being okay with their own thoughts and not having to constantly assuage the voice in their head of reality. So rare.

Robert Burchett
Robert Burchett
8 years ago

I’m wondering where in Central OR they were patrolling? In Bend I would have expected more cellphone violations, but out on the rural state roads more open container violations. Once I counted 67 beer cans between two mileposts on the road between Prineville and Paulina, without stopping or leaving the saddle. Somebody out there is holding a lot of Keystone Light. Of course they don’t hold them very long.

Dan A
Dan A
8 years ago

In Alaska, it’s punishable by up to $10,000 and 1 year in prison.

http://www.dps.state.ak.us/AST/ABHP/hwysafety.aspx

Though they just reduced it to $500 in Anchorage.

http://www.adn.com/article/20151110/anchorage-assembly-approves-new-texting-and-driving-penalty

Mark smith
Mark smith
8 years ago

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
Fines tend to hit poorer drivers hardest. For rich drivers, a fine is merely part of the cost of doing business, a bit like a bribe, but to the system, rather than to individual officers. Confiscation of vehicles would be a far more effective deterrent, as would detention, no matter how briefly, of the drivers themselves. However, when it was suggested to the City of Portland in the past (usually related to outer Division or 122nd), the police themselves pointed out (rightly, I think) that such enforcement actions will likely lead to disproportionate citations against blacks and immigrants, as well as take away officers from working on murders and other violent crimes in the community.
Recommended 3

Who is forcing anyone to act dangerously behind the wheel? If you can afford a car, you can afford to license it, insure it and keep in compliance with the law. If you have kids, you can afford car seats as well. If not, then don’t get the car.