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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?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Right?? Driving while suspended is like contempt of court, or parole violation. Why such a light penalty?

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

You can’t have it both ways. You want people’s cars impounded but these are generally the “poor” folks you care so much about.

JP
Guest
JP

Don’t you think they’d be better served by access to other forms of transportation that can actually get them where they want to go in a timely fashion? It’s no great service holding poor folks hostage to a costly transportation system that they can’t really afford to use.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Well, that’s a long term solution. What do we do about the problem in the short term? Allow people to be on the road who should not?

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

The average cost of ownership and operation of a car in the U.S. is $9000, a whole lot more than using public transportation.

maxD
Guest
maxD

owning a car is more expensive than public transportation, but public transportation in Portland is pretty lacking. It is slow and unreliable. It is often dirty and crowded. Security is pretty lacking and there are some pretty sketchy people on it. The connections are often inconvenient (look at the Yellow line to Red/Blue in the Rose Quarter!). The hours are not very good for late night/early mornings. There are a lot of restrictions about what you can take on-board- limited bikes, no wheelie carts, etc. That means no big grocery store trips/IKEA trips, trips to the vet, etc. I am part of a one-car family and we try to rely on bikes and public transportation for as many trips as possible. In my experience, Portland treats its public transportation as a commuter system for the lower classes. Portland needs to do much, much better at providing public transportation if it is expected to be considered a viable alternative.

GlowBoy
Guest
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.

Brian K
Guest
Brian K

I’ve lived all over the United States and while there can airways be improvement, I think you’re being unfairly critical of public transit. Portland’s is one of the best I’ve seen in the United States, especially for its size.

A recent visit to Austin Texas showed me their “texting bus stop numbers to see when next one was coming” only working at one of the stops I visited. Transit times were woefully off. And much of their ticket system was archaic.

I know that Portland’s Transit is also doing pubic meetings for some of the corridors(like Division) in an attempt to reduce the number of stops and thereby speedup.

wsbob
Guest

Seriously…people with a tight budget, can pick up very serviceable used cars and pickups, etc, for 1000-3000 bucks, that will do just fine for lower than average mileage per year, say 3000 miles, no 30 mile and more round trip mon-fri commutes plus long weekend trips. Still have to pay insurance, but overall, not bad for the convenience of having a personal motor vehicle at your door, ready and waiting to go at any time.

maxD’s description of light rail in Portland corresponds with my impression riding it. It’s actually a beautifully designed and engineered system. When it’s not crowded, the light rail can be very nice to ride, say Saturday or Sunday mornings from Beav to Portland and back. Rush hour afternoon from Portland, is terrible, crowded, stuffy. Awful. Driving or riding in a personal motor vehicle is a far better alternative for me.

Event days on Saturdays, for example, shows out at the Expo center, can really pack the light rail to the point, it’s not really very pleasant riding. Exception there, is that driving from Beaverton and going through the parking nightmare for the shows, makes light rail the better choice. Never have gone to the shopping center where Ikea is located, even though light rail has a stop there.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’m asking for it one way, not two ways.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

DWS is not a criminal offense in Oregon. It’s just an infraction, like speeding or running a stop sign. Slap on the hand, keep driving.

Spiffy
Subscriber

you usually get a warning the first time…

never do they let you continue to drive… if you don’t have a friend with you to drive your vehicle then they’ll tow it if it’s not in a place you can park it for a while, and you have to have a friend with you to get it out of the impound…

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Didn’t mean “keep driving right now,” but in the slightly longer term sense. As in get right back in your car the next day.

RH
Guest
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.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Law enforcement should never be used to raise revenue.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

It should pay for the cost of necessary enforcement and education. I don’t want to pay for enforcement of other people’s driving.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That’s an understandable sentiment, but if a police officer knows their job is being paid for with the money generated from the tickets they write, might there be an undesirable conflict?

dwk
Guest
dwk

I really don’t care…
Drivers have become so awful, constantly on their phone, on their apps, cutting through neighborhoods.
Ticket them!
Enforcement is the cheapest deterrent to crappy careless drivers.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I totally agree. I am fully in agreement we need more enforcement. I just don’t want to entangle law enforcement with financial motives.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

BTW, all such planned efforts are referred to as missions.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I can’t figure out if the reference is a military one or a Christian one? I’m not sure I like either.

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.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Violent death for suspended license? Wow, that’s extreme.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

You have to admit, it would have an impact!

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Talk about a crushing blow.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Seems to be the zeitgeist since January.

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

I would be very surprised if 10 percent of the driving population had a suspended license. However, if the number among those stopped is higher than among those not stopped then it follows that drivers with suspended license engage in more risky behavior than those with Alison license. One more reason to be less lenient with them …

Greg Haun
Guest
Greg Haun

Keep in mind that driver license suspension can have nothing to do with poor driving behavior. For instance, in Oregon, your driver license can be suspended if you are more than 3 months late paying child support. https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/25.750

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

That’s a good argument for not suspending their licenses in the first place. But if that’s what we’ve chosen to do, we ought to enforce it regardless of the initial reasoning.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

8-10% of Oregon drivers have an invalid license or are uninsured (or both). This range has not changed in many years.

(This number would be much higher if I added in vehicles with expired or invalid registrations.)

bjorn
Guest
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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Reminds me of Bob Huckaby’s shrill cry for people who bike to be licensed, so that they would, you know, become law abiding. Ha!
And this from someone who was discovered to be a repeat auto-offender in some of the ways tallied in this story.

Spiffy
Subscriber

if the traffic stop is in a place where you’re not supposed to stay parked then the vehicle will be towed unless you can get a valid driver to take the car for you…

Evan
Guest
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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I think they realize it, just like they realize that the speed limit says 55; but they prefer to think that these rules don’t apply to them; they won’t be caught; or some variation on these themes.

Justin
Guest
Justin

I dunno ’bout that. I was in Portland two years before I found out about the yellow light thing. I thought the officer was just making it up. He’d pulled me over on my bike, told me about the yellow light law, and then told me ghost bikes around town are places where cyclists did a stupid thing and got themselves killed.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

So … you didn’t actually read the Drivers Manual when you took the test and got your license? Every state has somewhat different traffic laws, so kind of good to know what’s new when you settle down in a new place. So many examples: Oregon permits left turn on red, not only one-way to one-way but (unlike any other state I know of) even one-way to two-way. Oregon doesn’t allow you to exceed the posted numeric speed limit while passing on a highway (whereas Washington, at least at the time I moved there many years ago, only required you to stay within the Basic Speed Law; Minnesota allows you to exceed the posted limit by 10 mph). Some states, like Oregon, are what’s known as Restricted Yellow states; others are Permissive Yellow.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

ORS 811.360 permits a left from a two-way onto a one-way, not from a one to a two. What, you didn’t read the Drivers’ Manual? BTW, I believe one other state allows it, but I can’t recall which.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Oops, you’re right. I typed it backwards.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Not to worry, you only have to get 80% of the 35 multiple-choice questions correct.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

I bet the were red loght violations. I see at least two a day that are obvious red light runners.

wsbob
Guest

“…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. …” rmhampel

What you’ve written is not exactly true. Check the relevant law for an accurate detailing of the obligations of road users regarding steady yellow lights: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.260

“…(4) Steady circular yellow signal. A driver facing a steady circular yellow signal light is thereby warned that the related right of way is being terminated and that a red or flashing red light will be shown immediately. A driver facing the light shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, shall stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection. If a driver cannot stop in safety, the driver may drive cautiously through the intersection. …” ORS 811.260

As you said, ‘gunning it’, if you mean a considerable distance from the intersection on the yellow, isn’t acceptable. Road users within the speed limit, being nearly at the intersection when the light changes to yellow, and proceeding on cautiously, aren’t in violation of this law.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Untrue.
For every signal controlled intersection there is a distance called the dilemma zone. It is the distance at which you can either slam on your brakes or continue through on the yellow. Before this distance you can get a ticket for not stopping, but after this distance you should be able to fight the ticket on the grounds of safety. Though it would not help if you were speeding.
The question to ask the officer in court is not, ‘where was I when the light turned red?’, but ‘where was I when the light turned yellow?”. If inside the dilemma zone, you can argue it would have been unsafe to stop.
BTW, in Portland, most signals have 3 seconds of yellow and 1 second of all red. It will be more yellow time if the intersection is wide.
Any sign, or marking (like a solid white line), is a traffic control device. So, entering a bike lane to make a right turn would qualify.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
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).

BB
Guest
BB

Actual teeth – and enforcement for years, if not decades, to change the mindset around the enforcement – is the only thing that will change the situation at hand. Otherwise it’s just business as usual.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Isn’t that hard. The town of Amity did this with their 25mph throttling on Hwy 99W. Everyone and I mean everyone who drives through there slows the hell down. Even today, even though to my knowledge the active enforcement stopped years ago.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Yes, enforcement does create long-term behavior changes. Back in 1980, I moved to a city that did zero-tolerance traffic law enforcement for all modes. Even though they stopped in the mid-’80s, it took me until about seven years ago to stop being a law-abiding road user, at least on my bike. (When I use a motor vehicle, I’m scrupulous about obeying the law; all the training I received to get a class A CDL will take a while longer to fade away I guess.)

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Ditto Milwaukie. And LO.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

La Center, WA is the same.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Enforcement does matter and make a difference. But unless you want a police state with monitoring everywhere, you only can only crack down in priority areas. If you overenforce areas, people start taking different routes which can cause different problems.

Even law abiding people don’t necessarily want to be surrounded by and monitored by cops all the time. Also, being on the lookout for cameras and cops is also a form of distracted driving that can affect legally operating drivers as well as scofflaws.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“Also, being on the lookout for cameras and cops is also a form of distracted driving that can affect legally operating drivers as well as scofflaws.”

Did you get that from here?

https://www.motorists.org/issues/

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Why is it so hard to understand that people will look for how they are being monitored, even if they are operating legally?

On a somewhat related note, trying to read the virtually invisible street signs in PDX (when they aren’t missing or pointed the wrong way) is easily more distracting than checking a GPS.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Sorry I hit that person, I was looking for speed traps? Your sympathy for people unable to operate their cars safely knows no bounds.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That’s interesting. I didn’t hear him excusing bad behavior. Did you?

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

It would be good to know whether that was the bottleneck, i.e., whether they would have stopped more people if they had more officers. My guess is that you have way more than 73 distracted drivers within 5 hours on any moderately busy street.

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”

MJS
Guest
MJS

Sometimes new traffic laws have grace periods (either built-in or LEOs will voluntarily do it) where they hand out warnings, which helps get the word around as people are busted for it. Not sure if that’s the case here from the text of the law.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

They often do this kind of thing when a new law is introduced, to educate the public. Both the folks they stop and the news coverage become aware that the new law is, in fact, being enforced.

9watts
Guest
9watts

=Car Head.

People cycling through Ladd’s Addition famously get tickets.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

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

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Those cyclists were probably distracted trying to watch out for cops.

wsbob
Guest

“…People cycling through Ladd’s Addition famously get tickets.” watts

As they well should. Ladd’s is an extraordinary situation though, from the standpoint of road user sensitivity to neighborhood livability, which people biking through that very small 7 block by 8 block square neighborhood, are notoriously indifferent to.

It’s not entirely their fault though, given that the city long ago, when biking in Portland was mostly recreational, designated the diagonal street through this neighborhood as a bike route. Now, biking has taken on much more of a regular commuter character, bringing hundreds, maybe thousands more people commuting on bikes onto the neighborhood’s diagonal street. They choose not to ride the main streets with signaled lights on the neighborhoods perimeter, despite the route that represents, being very little more of a longer trip.

Off topic basically, but at least someone is likely to see this as a reminder.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
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
Guest
9watts

All the folks who say this here I don’t think understand how much all of this costs to administer, and what the follow through costs are. It is a fun fantasy that this would make us rich, but these are not tobacco taxes we’re talking about, this is enforcement which to my knowledge in almost all cases costs as much or more as the funds taken in. Happy to be set straight if I’ve got some of this wrong.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

It all depends on how much, doesn’t it? We already do have an infrastructure in place for the ticketing (policemen – sunk costs, really) so while there might be incremental costs I can’t imagine it would be so onerous that the administration expenses would outweigh the benefits. It’s just another ticket.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“It’s just another ticket.”

Not sure exactly what you mean. I’ve understood that the follow through to have the officer show up in court, costs associated with contesting the citation, etc. all rack up pretty quickly. Someone here surely knows more about this and can set us straight.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“selfish and disrespectful”

Hear, hear.

rick
Guest
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.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Why hand out warnings?”

Oh, because to do anything more would be ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment for those car-bound folk who have been habituated to feel special, feel like they can get away with flouting those rules just a bit here and a bit there.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

And we know cyclists never feel special or entitled to flout rules…

9watts
Guest
9watts

false equivalence – again. The issue here wasn’t about cyclists at all; did you miss that?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

This is one of those casting stones things. You wouldn’t understand.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I understand the glass houses/casting stones/beam in your own eye aphorisms quite well, thank you. But those I think are all premised on level playing fields, equivalencies, parity, which I don’t think features here in the way your comments suggest.
People cycling should pay attention to pedestrians wishing to cross at Ladd’s, and if they miss the cop standing there who wasn’t trying to cross it is probably but not definitively fair to state that they weren’t looking for a pedestrian. But the differences in how these actions are staged and punishments meted out are I think instructive. With Crosswalk Enforcement actions, as we’ve had occasion to lament here in the past, the MO is to put up warning signs well in advance, and use decoys, neither of which feature in Ladd’s. Since no one is actually trying to cross in the Ladd’s sting setup, what is being punished is not any actual endangerment but a letter-of-the-law violation of the pedalcyclist-must-stop-at-stop-sign rule which PPB has gone on record as considering of low priority and the state of Idaho as we know has recognized as of questionable or negative value and has basically eliminated without consequence for health and safety.
Which brings us to the distracted driving rules newly passed here in Oregon. Thanks to distraction.gov which now redirects here: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving We know that “In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.”
Equivalence?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I believe the purpose of this was done to raise awareness of a law that has changed and improve compliance, not to actually enforce.

They make a big show that gets on the news, and people are put on notice.

In Ladd’s, everyone knows what’s going on. The people who live there sometimes put out signs, some even yell at cyclists. There’s no awareness to raise.

One thing I will grant is those stop signs on Ladd should be yield signs given the dynamics of the area. Asking cyclists or even cars to come to a complete stop strikes me as silly. They do need to slow down as the enter the circle. Most cyclists do just fine, and ride it “normally” (even when they run the sign) — I’ll go out on a limb and guess anyone who actually got a ticket was racing as you’ll see plenty of that.

Cops don’t target cyclists here. I’ve heard them call out to scofflaws over their PA, and I see them overlook a lot of wonky cycling — just as they also overlook a lot of wonky driving.

I might add that cops here do a much worse job of obeying the traffic laws themselves than in some other states. When those in charge of enforcing the laws don’t follow them, it makes it hard to take them seriously.

wsbob
Guest

“…One thing I will grant is those stop signs on Ladd should be yield signs given the dynamics of the area. Asking cyclists or even cars to come to a complete stop strikes me as silly. …” bannerjee

Under other circumstances, other locations, I might think stop signs at intersections should be yield signs rather than stop signs, but under the unique circumstance in which Ladd’s Addition exists, and the use being made of its main diagonal street through the neighborhood, I feel the stop signs are justified.

As is the expectation by residents, that all road users should stop at the signs along the length of this street, or if they’re rolling through them, do so at more than a normal walking pace, after having fully checked to see that someone isn’t trying to cross the street before them. .

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Are you saying that “those who live in glass houses with roommates who hurl boulders shouldn’t flick pebbles”? Or is it more along the lines of “Let the pedestrian who has never ‘jaywalked’ be the first to cast a stone at the driver who runs red lights and kills pedestrians—they’re both lawbreakers”?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

This is not a boulders and pebbles thing. If anything I think the drivers are better than cyclists overall which is why I prefer riding close to vehicles than bikes despite the obvious differences in what happens in a crash.

X
Guest
X

There’s no particular difference between the skills or intentions of MV operators vs bike riders, in my experience. They’re equally fallible. The notable difference is, a person on a bike has no metal shield, two orders of magnitude less mass, no gratuitous power, and no structural blind spots. Most people on bikes will shy away from physical contact. Plenty of bike riders have lousy skills, they’ll roll stop signs without a look and pass on the curb side, but also their chicken hearts will keep them at arm’s length. Run with the bulls if you want.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“If anything I think the drivers are better than cyclists overall…”

If that were true, then it would be as it should. The thing to think about is what would happen if 100 cyclists rode out of control all over the city vs. 100 drivers. Who has the greater burden to operate at a high level of competence and care? Which population requires a higher percentage of its members to consistently operate at that level to avoid mayhem?

Just in the last few weeks, one driver who lapsed in attention ran a red light and killed a blind pedestrian, and another who lapsed in judgment drove out of control while racing drunk and damaged another car and killed a bicyclist. If we go back even slightly further, we have Tamar Monhait, Erin Brenneman, Fallon Smart, Martin Greenough, Mark Angeles, and I’m sure others I can’t recall since 2014-ish. In the last several years in Portland, I can only recall the one Tillikum crossing incident where a bicyclist ran a signal and plowed into a pedestrian, and I think another incident on the Springwater where a bicyclist in “training” ran into a pedestrian. I don’t think either of the latter two incidents resulted in a fatality. And not a single case comes to mind where an out-of-control pedestrian killed anyone.

Sure, there are anomalous situations where a bicyclist could cause a 15-car pile-up, or kill a pedestrian, but the chances of that seem to be far lower (based on my observations of news stories in the last few years) than the chances that one out-of-control driver could plow into a building, other cars, a crowded sidewalk, a MAX train, etc. and do orders of magnitude more damage.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

If you believe that there have only been two incidents in the entire metro area in recent years where cyclists hit peds, you’re seriously kidding yourself.

But your point that the danger of bad driving being a far greater danger to society at large than bad cycling stands. And so does your point that drivers need to be better than the cyclists.

While there is certainly plenty of bad driving — some of which ends in tragedy — I am thankful that attitudes resisting operating defensively or competently are far less common in the motoring than cycling communities.

On an aside note, I would observe that the scrеwball cycling I see is highly biased towards certain places and times. In my experience, it is rare among winter commuters and those who actually ride on roads, especially as you get further out.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“attitudes resisting operating defensively or competently are far less common in the motoring than cycling communities.”

And you know this how?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“If you believe that there have only been two incidents in the entire metro area in recent years where cyclists hit peds, you’re seriously kidding yourself.”

Of course I don’t believe that, but such incidents certainly don’t get reported in “The News”, much like minor fender-benders don’t—I can only assume due to their lack of sensational injury or damage.

I think the resistance you perceive in this forum to “defensive riding” is not so much resistance to looking out for oneself, but resistance to the notion that it is our duty to society to bend over backwards to compensate for the foibles and outright incompetence of that segment of the driving population that does not maintain the required level of “defensive driving” behavior at all times—as is necessary when operating such dangerous machinery. Spreading the word of “defensive riding” techniques that can save a cyclist’s bacon in extreme situations involving crazy driving tends to sound like explaining how a homeowner could have thwarted a home invasion attack, if only they had invested in a steel front door with two deadbolts, bars on all windows, proper firearms training and practice with the several handguns the “prepared” homeowner would of course have stashed in strategic locations around the house, and had achieved level X of Krav Maga expertise.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

9watts
“attitudes resisting operating defensively or competently are far less common in the motoring than cycling communities.”
And you know this how?

You actually read posts here as well as writing them, yes?

Encouraging incompetence and avoiding any discussion of what someone could do to be safer on the roads is a hallmark of this blog. Rather the focus is on what people who neither know nor care about what is discussed here should do or on what infrastructure that doesn’t exist should be. Doing otherwise gets you labeled as a victim blamer.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“You actually read posts here as well as writing them, yes?”

And you?

“Encouraging incompetence and avoiding any discussion of what someone could do to be safer on the roads is a hallmark of this blog.”

Did you read El Biciclero’s point immediately above yours? I read his comment as a direct response to you, but your most recent post suggests you haven’t read or absorbed its meaning. No one here is encouraging incompetence; that is just how you consistently choose to misconstrue what it is we’re trying to say here.

El Biciclero’s words: I think the resistance you (Kyle) perceive in this forum to “defensive riding” is not so much resistance to looking out for oneself, but resistance to the notion that it is our duty to society to bend over backwards to compensate for the foibles and outright incompetence of that segment of the driving population that does not maintain the required level of “defensive driving” behavior at all times—as is necessary when operating such dangerous machinery.

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.

wsbob
Guest

“…I’ve read the new law and it is unclear exactly what you are allowed to do. …….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.” Liu

That sounds about right. Check (3) (d) of the law: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.507

“…(3) This section does not apply to a person who activates or deactivates a mobile communication device or a function of the device or who uses the device for voice communication if the person:

…(d) Is 18 years of age or older and is using a hands-free accessory; …”

I guess that still leaves the question of whether just using the phone for navigation, constitutes communication. And if it is communication…to what degree that level of communication poses a serious distraction from safe driving.

Personally, I’ve never used a cell phone while driving, for calls, or for direction finding. I’ve ridden in the car when a family member was using Garmin, with the voice calling out directions. I guess it’s an adjustment, getting used to the thing chattering away. It bugged me hearing it, and I didn’t say so at the time, but I felt like rolling down the window and throwing the device out. I’ve always used paper maps for directions, pulling over, taking the map out of the glove box and studying it. Those days is long gone it seems.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Agreed. This is yet another area where the laws will become increasingly disparate between states, so something that’s legal for a Washingtonian or Californian to do will cause them to be pulled over in Oregon – that may even explain some of those ‘warnings’.

When I travel for work and need to rent a car to find my destination (which is frequently in the US and my line of work), I often need to use the phone and my rental cars rarely (if ever) have mounts. (Some include GPS systems, but my company has recently forced us to decline that option to save money). The phone sits on the seat next to me and I navigate by voice guidance, often checking routes before getting on the plane just to become acquainted. Not too worried about getting pulled over because I don’t fiddle with the thing, but still, would be good to normalize rules of the road across the country and err on the side of safety for all road users.

Chad
Guest
Chad

Not to mention the various rules regarding where a phone can be mounted. On the windshield might be center only, anywhere but center, lower left, upper left, nowhere on the windshield, etc. depending on state or even city. We really need to figure out rules that make sense and standardize them nationwide.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“the officer said since he wasn’t actually holding the phone, it was okay for him to be operating the Uber navigation app.”

if he was using his hand to operate it then it’s still illegal because it’s not installed into the vehicle…

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
Guest
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’?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

You mentioned Ladd’s. Curiously, I wasn’t aware how famous it was for ticketing despite passing through there every day when I lived in the area.

I never expressed objection to the enforcement.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Whenever there’s bike infrastructure added in town, you complain that the wrong location has been chosen and that our resources could be better spent. You ought to feel the same way about Ladd’s.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

What you should be wondering instead is why people here aren’t demanding full separation in that area as cars and bikes mix together there.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’m equating your opinion here vs your opinion elsewhere.

You are equating my opinion here vs other people’s opinions elsewhere.

soren
Guest
soren

I have strongly advocated for a diverter at the entrance to Ladd’s Addition multiple times (bus-only diverter until the 10 gets rerouted into a bus-only lane with signal priority).

One less car lane!

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.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

You can’t codify common sense. People understand what distracted driving is, but if you try to enumerate *exactly* what it is, you inevitably allow broad categories of distracted driving while outlawing legit activity.

Normal automotive controls and displays can easily be distracting, and just because something is on a mobile device does not make it automatically distracting.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“you inevitably allow broad categories”

which suggests perhaps that when it comes to piloted autos we’re dealing with a particularly dangerous and consequential pastime that maybe deserves a different model of regulation than other technologies? Spotty or inconsistent regulation of pencils, chairs, shoes don’t rise to this level of danger.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Even if a different model of regulation is justified, the philosophical problem of how to enumerate what is ok and what is not still stands.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“the philosophical problem of how to enumerate what is ok and what is not still stands”

not necessarily. Once you recognize that we’re dealing with two fundamentally different categories of risk, we can relax about the one. Others have done a much better job here in the comments of articulating why treating the dangers posed by people cycling and people piloting autos as equivalent (or measured on the same scale) is nonsensical.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

What causes the danger in most cases is *how* something is being used rather than *what* is being used.

There are some notable exceptions to that statement which have been in the law for a long time. That talking on cell phones, watching videos, or having wearing noise canceling headphones is well known.

The law attempts to add to that the also well known factor that fooling around with mobile devices is a major distraction.

But GPS used correctly prevents rather than causes distraction. And the exception to functionality built into the console exacerbates rather the diminishes distraction when the console interfaces aren’t as good as the mobile — which is usually the case.

I believe the “hands free” exception is there in recognition that it’s unenforceable despite being a known distractions.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“But GPS used correctly prevents rather than causes distraction.”

You just made that up.

“I believe the ‘hands free’ exception is there in recognition that it’s unenforceable despite being a known distractions.”

QED – we find it easier to give up, stop trying, rationalize our capitulation when the subject is in a car.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

You are either intentionally being obstinate or have no clue as to how these devices work or are used.

9watts
Guest
9watts

There are only two choices on the menu?

I think I’m going to go order at a different restaurant.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Love your first sentence. I’ve always hated that term “common sense” – it is condescending to assume that someone’s own opinion is “right” and they are the norm (or above it), and someone else who does something different is somehow an inferior minority (like majority opinion is somehow ‘right’ simply because it’s majority, anyway).

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

“Common sense” doesn’t mean “what I think”.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Correct. That’s what makes it “common.”

Pete
Guest
Pete

Yes, precisely my point. Philosophers have debated for ages what could be considered “common” and therefore understood by all, but you will regularly see it applied to try and add weight to an argument: “Everyone knows when you ride your bike on a road with cars you’ll get hit by a car, it’s just common sense.”

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Fine. Go straight in front of turning vehicles. Don’t bother with lights, visibility gear, or signaling. Drink bleach. Don’t let logic or the thought process hold you back. And whine here about how you’ve been victimized….

9watts
Guest
9watts

You regularly (daily?) lambaste us as dupes, whiners, clueless as to how the real grown-up car-dominated world works. Does it ever occur to you that you might be missing some of what it is those of us you like to blast are actually saying here? That you are not actually reading the words we type but what your caricature of us suggests to you we are thinking instead?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I think your GF may be right.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’m pretty sure she is

dwk
Guest
dwk

I ride a bike 2 hours a day in this city, from Northeast to Tigard.
I see hundreds of cyclists each day as I go across Hawthorn, through downtown, come home with the Williams and Tillamook crowd and see none of the disparaging things you are constantly saying about cyclists and I mean almost NONE.
I ride with fellow commuters of all types and a lot more women than most people think.
I see mostly terrible drivers trying to run over us.
So I challenge you to provide any evidence that all of us cyclists here are really the problem.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Not sure how you drew that from what I wrote. My point is that everyone has an idea of “common sense”… it’s subjective, not qualitative, therefore how do you differentiate it from opinion? Popularity?

Since you and I have never met nor ridden together, you have no idea of my best practices or safety record, but I assure you bleach does not top my list of choice beverages.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Edit: “quantitative”, not “qualitative.”

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Randall Munroe (xkcd) recently wrote: “I want people to have more common sense but not the kind of common sense that allows them to tell when their being condescend to by someone who thinks tell her stupid, because then I would be in real trouble. “

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Sigh not “tell her” but “they’re.” Auto correct bites sometimes.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“Normal automotive controls and displays can easily be distracting, and just because something is on a mobile device does not make it automatically distracting.”

normal automotive controls don’t require you to take your eyes off the road… touch-screen devices have no tactile feedback allowing to to use them efficiently without seeing them…

that’s changing, and it seems a lot of companies are integrating controls into touch-screen interfaces… let’s hope these aren’t basics like lights, wipers, and defrost fans…

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?

Pete
Guest
Pete

I was in Japan last spring and a local representative from my company picked me up in his personal car/pool and drove me around on our local travels (this was in Chiba). The whole time there was non-stop television and ads streaming from the dashboard. When I asked if he considered it distracting, he said, “Of course, but everyone watches TV while driving here!”

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.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

It’s a human factors thing that takes a long time to change. I see people cycling while yakking on hand held cell phones practically every day. While not very dangerous to others as they are typically riding slowly, they put themselves at considerable risk. If people don’t even care about themselves, I’m not sure it’s realistic to have them care more about others.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“While not very dangerous to others as they are typically riding slowly…

…If people don’t even care about themselves”

BradWagon
Subscriber

Dude your false equivalences here are mind blowing. For what it’s worth as a counter perspective I do not recall seeing a single cyclist looking down at their phone or riding while talking on the phone in all my time of riding and commuting in the Westside suburbs (maybe while cruising walking speed on the MUP or stopped on a sidewalk a time or two, but never out in the road). Something I see driver do too many times to keep track EACH DAY.

But yet again, your drawing attention away from the obviously dangerous actions of drivers towards the much less dangerous actions of cyclists is really quite something considering you seem like you want to promote cycling…

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The roads are very different in different areas. When I pass near the downtown area, I see cyclists doing this sort of thing all the time, not just on MUPs/sidewalks (which I think is a bad idea), but on roads like Interstate and surrounding side roads.

There are many places where I’ve never seen anyone do this sort of thing such as the SW hills. I don’t doubt your observations as some suburban riding is no joke. The behaviors I frequently complain about here are nonexistent in other areas I’ve lived before I moved here.

BradWagon
Subscriber

“While not very dangerous… …they put themselves at considerable risk.”

Huh? Which one is it?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

It’s not good, but they’re not that dangerous to others. They are dangerous to themselves.

What I’m saying is that people act like human beings. If people won’t take basic measures that are clearly in their own best interests, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they don’t think too much of others.

Tightening the laws is a good idea, but it’s wishful thinking to believe that simply cranking up the punishment is going to totally change the way people behave. That worked so great with the war on drugs…..

Rather, people need to take the issue of distraction seriously. Whether you’re driving, walking, cycling, or whatever, you need to pay attention. Until that message gets through, compliance is going to be garbage.

On an aside note, just as you don’t see cyclists doing dumb things where you are, there are places where you don’t see drivers doing dumb things either. Years ago, my commute included one of the most dangerous sections of road in the state. Curiously, I felt reasonably safe there because it was obvious drivers were paying attention attention. On other sections of road, I see all kinds of nonsense. People put on makeup (why is it even legal to have a vanity mirror on the driver’s side?), shave, mess with coffee, read, sсrew around with electronics, etc. When drivers feel like they have less to do, the distraction factor goes way up.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“If people won’t take basic measures that are clearly in their own best interests, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they don’t think too much of others.”

You’ve raised this correlation here a number of times. I’d like to see the evidence.

dwk
Guest
dwk

I would like to see evidence of most things he posts.
Macho nonsense in most cases.
I am beginning to doubt he is even a cyclist.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’m perfectly happy to not be a cyclist in your eyes. I quit calling myself one after moving here because the term carries baggage and associations I want no part of.

BradWagon
Subscriber

I agree that just making the punishment more severe is going to change nothing and that people won’t choose to stop this kind of habitual behavior unless something else causes the cost/benefit scales to tip.

However, people absolutely do look out for their best interests, it’s just that most folks obviously give the risk of personal harm very low weight in their decisions. And 99% of the time they are right, be it not getting in an accident and also not getting caught. It is obvious we need to change things that force people to break habits, asking them more sternly isn’t going to do it.

And equating driver risk to cycling risk is mostly useless. You’re saying “all distracted road users matter” when it’s clear which ones are actually causing the problem.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

BradWagon
However, people absolutely do look out for their best interests, it’s just that most folks obviously give the risk of personal harm very low weight in their decisions. And 99% of the time they are right, be it not getting in an accident and also not getting caught. It is obvious we need to change things that force people to break habits, asking them more sternly isn’t going to do it.

This is exactly my point.

And it is definitely not my intention to equate driver and cyclist risk — the two are very lopsided.

It’s about getting people to take distraction more seriously for the sake of others as well as themselves. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that people scrеw up so you need to be ready for that.

If the culture we propagate is that it’s fine not to pay attention just about everywhere except when driving, that attitude will tend to infect driving as well. I personally favor reminding people from multiple angles — this PSA doesn’t do a bad job… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O51f1BZKPoo

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“If the culture we propagate is that it’s fine not to pay attention just about everywhere except when driving, that attitude will tend to infect driving as well.”

I don’t even know what to say….just going to leave that there.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I see you’ve been to Hood River…

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.]