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

Posted by on April 27th, 2016 at 11:09 am

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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47 Comments
  • Avatar
    Tom Hardy April 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

    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.

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      Wyatt April 27, 2016 at 11:48 am

      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.

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      David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC April 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      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.

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    bikeninja April 27, 2016 at 11:20 am

    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.

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      David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC April 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      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…

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    Paul Atkinson April 27, 2016 at 11:21 am

    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?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 27, 2016 at 11:25 am

      I agree that’s a low number Paul. But keep in mind they were in patrol cars and on a lot of highways where it’s difficult for troopers to see inside vehicles. That’s one of the primary impediments to catching more distracted drivers — and why I’ve heard about some police forces doing more innovative things like riding in buses to get a better view of offenders. In Portland, I think Chief O’Dea should consider using officers on bicycles during rush-hour to catch distracted drivers.

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        Tim April 27, 2016 at 2:22 pm

        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.

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        KristenT April 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm

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

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        fourknees April 27, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        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

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          K'Tesh April 28, 2016 at 7:57 am

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

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        Paul Atkinson April 28, 2016 at 9:10 am

        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?

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      patrick April 27, 2016 at 11:32 am

      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.

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        Dan A April 27, 2016 at 11:47 am

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

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          lyle w. April 27, 2016 at 2:57 pm

          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.

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        Chris I April 27, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        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.

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      mran1984 April 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      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.

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      James Sherbondy April 27, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      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.

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    Eric Leifsdad April 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    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?

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    pdxperson April 27, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    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.

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      Dan A April 27, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Entitled? Don’t you mean ‘uppity’?

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      Tim April 27, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      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.

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      Eric Leifsdad April 27, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      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.

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      Spiffy April 27, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      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…

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        Pdxperson April 27, 2016 at 5:17 pm

        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.

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          Tim April 28, 2016 at 1:34 pm

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

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    Spiffy April 27, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    6.6 citations per hour…

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

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    El Biciclero April 27, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    “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.

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      Tim April 27, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      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.

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        lyle w. April 27, 2016 at 2:55 pm

        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.

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          Tim April 28, 2016 at 1:37 pm

          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.

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        Dan A April 28, 2016 at 7:24 am

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

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    Adam April 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm

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

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      Skid April 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      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.

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    Kyle Banerjee April 27, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    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.

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      Spiffy April 27, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      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…

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        El Biciclero April 30, 2016 at 9:37 pm

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

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    Carrie April 28, 2016 at 8:36 am

    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.

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      lyle w. May 1, 2016 at 10:43 am

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

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    Robert Burchett April 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

    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.

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    Dan A April 28, 2016 at 9:50 am

    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

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    Mark smith April 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    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.

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