Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

An article published this week in the New York Times outlines what many of us have long suspected: distracted driving, the paper writes, “by just about any measure, appears to be getting worse. Americans confess in surveys that they are still texting while driving, as well as using Facebook and Snapchat and taking selfies. Road fatalities, which had fallen for years, are now rising sharply, up roughly 8 percent in 2015 over the previous year, according to preliminary estimates.”

It quotes the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saying “radical change requires radical ideas,” and then goes on to offer some striking examples. The most unique, proposed by legislators in New York “is to give police officers a new device that is the digital equivalent of a Breathalyzer – a roadside test called the Textalyzer.”

As the Times outlines, an officer would collect phones from drivers and passengers and use the device “to tap into (each phone’s) operating system to check for recent activity.” The answers provided by the machine would determine not only whether the driver had been texting but also whether he or she had violated New York’s hands-free laws (the oldest in the nation) in any other way. “Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer,” the paper reports.

As we count down the final hours of 2015 this is a good moment to remember the importance of celebrating safely. Yes, you read many warnings like this every year, but there is good reason for that. For all the effort that goes into education and prevention in the run-up to every December 31 the evening remains one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the roads.

As noted by Eugene TV station KEZI, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has reported that fully one-third of traffic fatalities each year involve alcohol. Recognizing the dangers, and in an effort to curb Portland drunk driving, Tri-Met will again be offering free transportation tonight, starting at 8 pm.

As a number of media outlets have noted, New Years Eve traffic fatalities across the state have fallen in recent years. Indeed, two years ago there were no New Year’s traffic fatalities at all. Arrests, however, have steadily risen over the same period, indicating perhaps that if education has been less than a complete success enforcement, at least, goes a long way toward cutting down on accidents. Medford TV station KDRV is warning its viewers to expect “saturation patrols” tonight, and that advice can safely be said to apply throughout the state.

An Oregon car accident near Amity on route 99W sent a highway worker to the hospital last week. According to The Oregonian, a ‘flagger’ employed by a private company was “taken to a Portland hospital with serious injuries” after being struck by a car in the early evening. The Oregon traffic accident occurred near milepost 47 on Route 99W and closed the road to traffic for what the newspaper describes as “an extended period of time.”

The paper reports that the driver remained on the scene and cooperated with police. It also, however, reports that investigators believe “alcohol or drugs may have been a factor” in the incident and that they are considering criminal charges against the driver.

On its surface this might seem like a fairly straightforward Oregon traffic accident case. The specifics, however, raise several interesting legal questions. We would normally suppose a highway worker injured on the job to be covered by workman’s comp, but the fact that the flagger was injured by a third party – the driver – changes the situation in some ways. Most notably, if drugs or alcohol were, indeed, involved in the accident that opens the possibility of a legal claim under Oregon’s social host and dram shop laws against not only the driver but also the individual, bar or liquor store that gave or sold the driver drugs or alcohol. Because Oregon requires training in the specifics of its dram shop laws for all bartenders this sort of liability can be especially difficult to avoid.

As an article in today’s Oregonian warns, Halloween has long been a night when pedestrians and drivers alike need to exercise particular caution. This year, however, the fact that October 31 is also the evening when we move from daylight saving time back to standard time makes tonight especially dangerous.

Halloween has always been a night when everyone should be especially aware of the possibility of injuries to children. In the twilight and early evening hours small children – many wearing dark costumes – are running around residential neighborhoods all over the country. The danger of a car accident rises significantly even for the most careful of drivers. The Oregonian reports that Halloween is traditionally the third-worst day of the year for pedestrian fatalities, surpassed only by New Year’s Day and December 23.

In recent decades, however, Halloween has also emerged as an adult party night with a reputation for drinking and driving that rivals New Year’s Eve. According to today’s article “in 2012 when 54 pedestrians died in car crashes on Halloween nationwide, nearly half of those deaths involved a drunk driver.”

A Harrisburg car crash over the weekend left a 19-year-old man dead and has led to the arrest of the vehicle’s 20-year-old driver, according to The Oregonian. “Police said alcohol and drugs likely were contributing factors. There was evidence to show that the driver… was allegedly (had) over twice the legal limit of alcohol (in his bloodstream) and had used cocaine and marijuana,” the paper reports.

Citing local police, the paper reports that the driver failed to make his way around a curve on a road in Linn County causing his minivan to roll several times. Of the three passengers in the van one was ejected and thrown some 50 feet. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and the other two passengers, both of whom are 18 years old, were treated for “non-life threatening” injuries at an area hospital.

After his release from the hospital the driver “was booked into the Linn County Jail on charges of Manslaughter I, Assault II and DUII,” the newspaper reports.

A single-vehicle Portland car accident that killed one person and injured two others spotlights both the dangers of reckless and drunk driving and its broader legal implications, even when a second car is not involved.

According to a report earlier this week in The Oregonian a 29 year old man who was riding in the back seat of an SUV died when he was thrown from the vehicle during “a fatal crash Sunday night off Northwest Skyline Boulevard.” The paper reports that “the SUV rolled down a steep embankment toward the 6600 block of Meridian Ridge Drive where it struck a house and caught fire. Neighbors were able to extinguish the fire and no one in the home was injured.” The newspaper, quoting police, says that the SUV’s 39-year-old driver remains in an area hospital in critical condition. The other passenger, a 30-year-old woman, “was treated for her injuries and released” from the hospital.

As the paper notes, “while the cause of the crash remains under investigation… (police) said it appears that alcohol and excessive speed were both contributing factors.”

A recent article in the Keizer Times highlighted the story of a local man who is struggling to recover after an Oregon bicycle accident involving a drunk driver. According to the newspaper the 59-year old “had plans to compete in some bicycle competitions this summer,” instead he is now working to recover from extensive injuries as he and his family look for a longer-term rehab facility.

The newspaper reports that the accident took place March 14 when the cyclist was riding “near Antelope in Central Oregon.” Citing a State Police report, the paper says a 56-year-old woman “was driving a 2007 Toyota Tundra and pulling a trailer westbound on Highway 218 in Wasco County when the right side of her pick-up hit” the bike rider. The driver left the scene of the accident and was later “arrested and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants, failure to perform the duties of a driver, reckless driving and second-degree assault.”

The cyclist was initially taken to a local hospital and later moved to a different hospital in Bend. He suffered “four broken ribs on the left side, several breaks in his lower left leg, a broken left scapula (shoulder blade), a cut on the left side of his temple and a concussion,” according to the Keizer Times. A friend describes him as “recovering as well as can be expected.”

With the New Year’s holiday fast approaching this is a good time to remind everyone of the importance of avoiding Oregon drunk driving. As I have written about in previous years, New Year’s Eve is often a time when people over-indulge, including people who would never think of drinking and driving at other times of the year. The good news is that here in Portland Tri-Met is doing its part to help cut down on holiday drunk driving.

According to a news release from Tri-Met “all service is free after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.” Buses will be on their regular weekday schedules as will Blue, Green and Yellow MAX trains. Late night service will continue at 30 minute intervals until shortly after 3 a.m. MAX Red Line trains will be on a normal schedule, with shuttle buses to the airport picking up after train service stops for the night. The Portland Streetcar will also operate a normal weekday schedule.

As a recent article in The Oregonian noted, an analysis by the newspaper found that on New Year’s Eve 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 “there were 82 fatal accidents involving at least one drunken driver, one of them in Oregon… More than half of the deaths on New Year’s Days from 2008 to 2012 involved at least one drunken driver, more than any other holiday, an analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found.”

If there is any night of the year when extra-cautious driving and attention to pedestrian safety are required in residential areas it is Halloween. Small children are everywhere, running up and down streets, many of them dressed in dark costumes as the sun sets. The news spreading around the northwest today is of a terrible accident that appears to have brought this fact home in the worst possible way.

According to The Oregonian “two girls, ages 6 and 7, and a 20-year-old woman were in critical condition with life-threatening injuries on Saturday morning, police said. The woman was reportedly put into a medically-induced coma.” This was the tragic outcome of an apparent Washington drunk or impaired driving incident in which “a Ford Mustang… jumped the curb and struck a group of trick-or-treaters on a Vancouver sidewalk Friday night.” The newspaper adds that, according to police, the man driving the car “was likely speeding and driving impaired.” A 33-year-old woman also suffered broken bones in the Washington car accident.

Police say the driver, a 47-year-old male, only came to a stop after hitting a pole. He is reported to have only minor injuries. The paper reports that toxicology tests are still being conducted but the police already suspect that drugs may also have been a factor in the driver’s impairment.

Citing new figures published by the Centers for Disease Control, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that “excessive drinking accounts for one in every nine deaths in Oregon.” That figure, it adds, puts our state on the wrong side of the national average, which is one death in 10.

Between drunk driving and other well-known alcohol-related risks the figure is, perhaps, less surprising than it might seem. It is worth noting that the study focused on the broad health risks associated with alcohol. While drunk driving was included it was not the sole focus of the research. According to OPB “The study looked at binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men, as well as heavy drinking, which is eight drinks a week for a woman and 15 for a man.”

The focus on binge drinking also highlights the importance of strict enforcement of Oregon dram shop laws. These extend responsibility for injuries and damage caused by a drunk person to bars, taverns and any business that sells alcohol. The dram shop rules are a reminder that cutting off someone who is drinking too much is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of the drinker himself or his companions.

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