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Undercover distracted driving sting leads to 107 stops in just 5 hours

Posted by on October 13th, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Like shooting fish in a barrel.
(Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Just how rampant is dangerous driving and law-breaking among drivers? Our latest example comes from Washington County where sheriff deputies in Aloha went undercover to help educate the public about Oregon’s new hands-free driving law.

In five hours of work they stopped 73 people for violating the new law, passing out 11 citations and 62 warnings.

The Sheriff’s office called it a “non-traditional enforcement mission” (they prefer “mission” instead of sting) because they used undercover deputies. The plainclothes deputies stood on the sidewalk at intersections as “spotters” and would then tip-off other deputies when they saw violations.

Oregon’s new distracted driving law (HB 2597) went into effect October 1st (we have an in-depth post about it from our legal expert Ray Thomas coming Monday). It covers many more behaviors than the old law (which only focused on cell phones) and also applies when you are stopped in traffic.

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In addition to the distracted driving violations, deputies also stopped people for a myriad of other offenses:

* Three citations and four warnings for failure to wear or improper use of seatbelts;
* Two warnings for failure to obey a traffic control device;
* Six citations for driving while suspended;
* Two citations for operating without driving privileges;
* One citation for speeding;
* Three warnings for expired vehicle registration;
* Two citations and three warnings for vehicle insurance violations;
* Four warnings for vehicle equipment violations;
* Four warnings for lane use violations;

It’s always amazing how many people officers stop on these enforcement missions. And it’s a reminder of just how selfish and disrespectful some road users are.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Ed
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Ed

Does driving while suspended really just get you a citation? Not arrest and impoundment of the vehicle?

RH
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RH

Why can’t these ‘missions’ happen all the time as the fines would easily pay for the officers salary, etc…It would lead to safer drivers and possibly a notch closer to Vision Zero.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

6 suspended licenses out of 73 stops? That is extraordinary, it means almost 10% of drivers stopped are operating with a suspended license, perhaps 10% of the motoring public is operating without a valid license. Clearly something must be done, to change this or carnage and mayhem on the roads will only increase over time. I vote for crushing the cars of any person found driving with a suspended license. If someone kills a pedestrian or cyclist while driving with a suspended license they get to use the “ride thru” lane at the car crusher.

bjorn
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bjorn

So in nearly 10% of the stops we find people who were not legally allowed to be behind the wheel, which pretty much means they have no insurance. People continuing to drive without insurance is unacceptable and can lead to revictimization of people who are hurt by them. The state has to find some way to get real about punishing people who are driving without licenses and/or insurance. If there is no legal driver present it seems like the vehicles should be impounded immediately for safety reasons.

Evan
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Evan

The headline says 107 stops but the article says 73 people were stopped. Are both numbers correct?

RMHampel
Guest
RMHampel

Interesting that 2 were given warnings for failure to obey a traffic device. I suspect those were yellow light runners. Most newcomers to Oregon (and, I suspect many Long-time residents too) don’t realize that a yellow traffic light means “stop” here, rather than “gun it”. Entering an intersection on a yellow is a “failure to obey a traffic device” in this state. If it happens to turn yellow when you are already in the intersection, you are good.

Paul Atkinson
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Paul Atkinson

So…about 20 stops per hour. A stop takes 3-5 minutes on average, so that’s essentially one officer working as fast as possible (on the low end of the time estimate) or two (on the high end).

I’m not sure what the traffic volume is where they were doing this, but it sounds like they were able to stop people as fast as they could work.

I get that the law is new and they’re trying to be gentle about letting people know, but I’d welcome a similar mission with actual teeth (and, knowing PPB have some work on this front to do, probably an ACLU observer to help in case there’s any subconscious bias in how people are treated).

ben B
Guest
ben B

These stings are great, but why only give out warnings? Everyone knows its illegal and still ignore the law. People aren’t afraid of “warnings”

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

Much like the marijuana tax, this could be a HUGE source of revenue. Since the law was enacted under the auspices of public safety, a portion of the fines should go towards public safety projects, such as infrastructure.

9watts
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9watts

“selfish and disrespectful”

Hear, hear.

rick
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rick

What else to expect on TV Highway / SW Canyon Road? An orphan ODOT highway. Why hand out warnings? At least 32 people have died on that highway / boulevard since 2003.

G-force
Guest
G-force

The reality of this is purely new bite worthy examples- Portland Police have not hired and likely will not hire any police officer to enforce this. It’s up to the Officer and the want of overtime dollars of that officer/s to police this. That is the true reality in Multnomah county. Given that the police force can’t even grow or keep up with the population how does anyone really think that this matters (in a true policing manner)? Sure, I applaud the municipalities that are taking a step or two towards this unreasonable motorist behavior, but let’s be real, our regional police forces are not staffed to be effective and this is just example news bites of a non-reality.

If anyone would care to examine the actual active police (ones that you can see in your daily travels) numbers you would be VERY surprised as to how many actually are available to “police” in general then add this as well. hum….

Jack
Guest
Jack

“And it’s a reminder of just how selfish and disrespectful some road users are.”
It’s autos, bikes and peds lost in their own small world. People need to wake up and cooperate.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I’m looking forward to Ray’s post. I’ve read the new law and it is unclear exactly what you are allowed to do. I use my phone while driving for navigation and to play music. I’m trying to figure out if the phone has to be in a mount when doing that, or if it can sit in the ashtray as it does now. Also if you can touch the phone to turn those functions on and off, when driving.

I’ve talked to an Uber driver who keeps his phone in a mount attached to the windshield. He said he’s been stopped by a policeman since the law went into effect, and the officer said since he wasn’t actually holding the phone, it was okay for him to be operating the Uber navigation app.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

This is awesome. Way to go police officers. Now, do this all the time!

I have been a professional driver for a long time and the general disorder and lawlessness on the roads today is shocking. Like it or not, roads are our modern public square and the way people treat each other and the law is indicative of the moral rot in this county.

Maybe if we hadn’t lived though decades of unaccountable police brutality, people would be looking to the police for answers to this and other ills. A creeping sense of anarchy is beginning to take hold. You can see it on the streets and transit.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

I remember back years ago when Jordan Valley was known as the biggest speed trap in the nation. The local cop’s entire paycheck was based on speeding tickets he handed out. Any surplus went to the town’s parks. It worked! Everyone in the know crept through town as outsiders paid the bills. Time to do this in Portland? Yeah. Let’s go!

9watts
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9watts

Kyle Banerjee
I’m sure it was just harassment and no one was blowing through stop signs at over 20mph near peds.
Recommended 0

Are you suggesting that the behaviors in Ladd’s are more dangerous to others as those for which the people piloting autos in this story were ‘given warnings’?

9watts
Guest
9watts

I think it would be instructive to scrutinize the list of exceptions to this law, in particular the first two:
* When using hands-free or built-in devices, if you are 18 years of age or older.
* Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device.

paying particular attention to the degree to which this kind of leniency obtains or doesn’t obtain with laws codifying other kinds of violations.

mike
Guest
mike

With all the infotainment screens in cars these days how does that not lead to distracted driving? Are those being targeted as well?

Rich Fox
Guest

What really gets my goat is seeing folks with “Share the Road” license plates STILL using their phones while driving. Arg. Sadness.

Mike Healey
Guest

Driving without a licence/insurance/vehicle tax means automatic impounding of the vehicle in the UK regardless of the reason. 🙂

Joe
Guest
Joe

yay something is getting done.

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

As a teenager, I was pulled over in Boulder, Colorado for a defective tail light, and learned that my license had been suspended (due to late payment of a speeding ticket in another state). I was arrested for driving with a suspended license, spent the night in jail, and the car I was driving was impounded. Even at the time, it all made sense to me under the circumstances. I’m really surprised that Oregon doesn’t do the same thing.

Mat
Guest
Mat

I drove behind some jacked up F250 with a Trump/Pence sticker on his window on Saturday all the way to Gaston, the entire time the driver was looking at his phone, glancing up briefly here and there to make sure he was still on the road.

maxD
Guest
maxD

GlowBoy
Haha, “Portland treats its public transportation as a commuter system for the lower classes,” that’s hilarious. At rush hour TriMet’s local buses are dominated by middle class commuters. And lots of my westside-resident coworkers take MAX to go downtown or the airport.
In contrast, spend a day with me riding the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit buses, and you’ll actually see a system that is shunned by the middle and upper classes, overwhelmingly serving poor people (Other than the vast network of rush hour Express buses connecting downtown with far flung suburbs, that is, which are practically a separate system) . And race unfortunately being highly correlated with income in this country, I’m often the only white face on the bus too.
Despite that, MT actually runs a pretty good bus network, with service at least as good as TriMet’s, and far more reliable when the weather takes a turn. Yes TriMet could be better, and yes you need to plan your trip carefully, especially during shoulder hours, but in a middle sized American city you can’t expect buses every 5 minutes on all the routes. TriMet’s not that bad.
Recommended 0

I guess agree that Portland “not that bad”, but I am not trying to compare TriMet to some other mediocre system. I am trying to make the point that for alternative transportation to be effective, it needs to be a viable alternative. TriMet may be attracting some commuters, but they are not really trying to be an alternative to owning a car in Portland. [I was originally responding to the assumption that it costs a lot more to own a car than to use public transportation.]