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People driving out of control: Daycare damaged, schools delayed, bike rider burned by downed power pole


What happened this morning. Be thankful you weren't in that car, in that daycare or under that power pole. (Images: Portland Police, Tigard Police)

What happened this morning. Be thankful you weren’t in that car, in that daycare or under that power pole.
(Images: Portland Police, Tigard Police)

The amount of daily destruction and disruption in our region caused by peoples’ inability to control their cars and trucks is staggering.

Between 2:00 am and 6:00 am this morning there were two incidents that illustrate what has become an all too common occurrence on our roads.

Around 2:00 am on Hall Boulevard in Tigard (adjacent to the skatepark and Burnham Street) a man who had been drinking while driving failed to maintain control of his van and he struck a large power pole. According to the Tigard Police Department, the power pole fell over and a woman riding a bicycle became entangled in the wires. She sustained life-threatening injuries and burns and was taken via ambulance to the hospital.

The man who crashed his van into the pole was not injured and is under suspicion of DUII (Update: Mark Hunter has been charged with Assault IV, Criminal Mischief, Reckless Driving and DUII). The man’s actions caused not only life-threatening injuries to another person and endangered his own safety, they led to the power being knocked out for several hours. School buses were trapped inside a nearby parking lot and the entire Tigard-Tualatin school district is on a two-hour delay. The Tigard City Hall campus is also without power. It’s also important to note that this happened in a section of the road that has tricky chicane and a 40 mph speed limit despite being near a public park, city hall, library and residential areas. Just a few hundred feet south is a signalized crossing of the paved Fanno Creek Trail, a popular cycling and walking path.

All of this happened because one man made a series of dangerous, selfish, and irresponsible decisions while behind the wheel of a large vehicle. Do I know exactly what happened without a full investigation? No. I don’t know precisely what led to this crash, but I’m confident in saying it wouldn’t have happened if this man was driving at a safe speed without any distractions or impairments.

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A few hours later on the other side of the region, another person failed to maintain control of their car and it careened through an intersection. According to the Portland Police Bureau the person allowed their car to leave the road, jump up a curb and slam into the side of a daycare at SE Stark and 60th. Thankfully no one was inside. The police say the person behind the wheel fled before they arrived.

The amount of illegal, drunk, distracted and careless vehicle operation on our roads is at an all-time high while our efforts to mitigate those threats aren’t coming close to keeping up.

All this destruction and disruption comes just one day after we drew attention to the fact that 21 people died in Oregon roads in the past 12 days, notching our yearly toll up to 431 people — 75 more than the total in 2014 (latest year complete data is available from).

These crashes (and the many others like the one on November 8th where someone backed into a building and killed a pregnant woman in Beaverton) are very unsettling on many levels. The amount of illegal, drunk, distracted and careless vehicle operation on our roads is at an all-time high while our efforts to mitigate those threats aren’t coming close to keeping up. The incremental steps we are taking to improve safety through traditional advocacy (government and nonprofit), infrastructure design, transportation policy, and enforcement are no longer working. We must be more fearless and bold.

Another problem here is how the media and the police frame these incidents. There is rarely if ever any mention in their coverage or statements (which are often one in the same because media usually just publishes police statements verbatim) about the human and cultural factors at play. “The car missed the intersection” on Stark and a “van crashed into a power pole” on Hall. It’s as if the cars were driving themselves!

These crashes are not aberrations. They are expected outcomes of a broken system and a cultural epidemic of disrespect for the privilege of driving. If we want to see fewer of them, we must change driving culture as well as driving infrastructure. Honest and direct language about the role vehicle operators play in these crashes would be a good start toward creating more awareness of the immense consequences and responsiblity that come with driving.

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

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