Thursday, October 4, 2007

New Vehicular Homicide Law in Oregon Needs Nationwide Adoption

In listening to the KBOO Bike Show podcast today, Portland, Oregon-area bike lawyer Ray Thomas was a guest and spoke about the new Oregon "Vulnerable Roadway Users" protection law.

Based on European safety concepts (I assume that they're referring to the 5th Motorist Directive from the EU), the law states (and I quote from Mr. Thomas on the show)
"if you hurt or kill a vulnerable user, and are guilty of careless driving, there's an enhanced penalty that (and it's more than punishment) that allows you to to have a reconciliation and atonement by going through a community service program, by going through a driver improvement program, so that you're less likely to be a hazard out there. And if you decide that you don't want to participate in this sort of alternative sentence, you get hit with a mandatory one-year license suspension, and a fine."
I like the sound of this law, obviously, but I can see one major problem with it: proving that the driver is guilty of careless driving. We've all heard stories of cyclists or pedestrians being hit, and the driver gets away with it because "I just didn't see them."

It'd take some education of the police force, that's for sure.

Thomas also brought up a point that I found very poignant in the discussion of cyclists who don't obey traffic codes:
"For those of us who are bicyclists, I'll tell you: you can do something that I do. And that is every time I'm tempted to run a stop sign or go through a red light, I think about what is going to go through the mind of all of those motorists who are watching me. And what do they think about me as a bicyclist? And then what happens if one of my friends or clients is in a court of law in front of a jury comprised of folks who have watched us do that? What do those people think about bicyclists and are they going to be able to be fair to us? Because when I talk to people on juries, what they tell me is 'You know, I think the bicyclists are fine, and they're nice, and everything, but why don't they follow the same laws as the rest of us?'"
People, not speed.

1 comment:

  1. I find it comical that motorists complain about cyclists not following the laws. First, the penalty for a screw-up is much harsher for the cyclist (like death) where the motorist is nice and safe.
    Second, the sheer number of people not following the law is certainly weighted toward motorists as the number of cyclists is a tiny fraction of drivers. Even if no cyclist ever followed the rules, there would still be a great many more drivers breaking the law.
    That being said, it cheeses me off to no end watching cyclists do stupid things that p/o drivers. Not for their safety, but for mine.

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