Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Portland is a place with a lot of pedestrians. Some people eschew horsepower for foot power to help the planet, others do so to take in the beautiful sights and sounds of the city, while still others do so out of financial necessity. Whatever the reasons, Portland pedestrians should be safe as they traverse the city’s roads. Too often though, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, it’s the result of a negligent driver. Other times, hazardous conditions on and around the road play a role. Whatever the specifics of your case, an experienced Portland pedestrian accident lawyer can help you at all steps in the process, from investigating the accident scene to the resolution of your case.

Oregon Route 213 is known by many names, including Lancaster Drive, Silverton Road, and Cascade Highway. However, Portlanders know Route 213 better as 82nd Avenue.

Following a recent unanimous vote of the City Council, the City of Portland will take ownership from the state of a seven-mile stretch of 82nd Avenue that runs through East Portland from the international airport to the city’s southern boundary, Oregonlive.com has reported.

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Getting everything that you’re owed after you’ve been seriously injured (or a loved one has been killed) in a vehicle accident can involve a long list of battles. Some of those battles may involve taking on your own auto insurer when they seek to avoid paying what they should. Whether you’re taking on an at-fault driver’s legal team or you’re taking on your insurance company, it pays to have an experienced Oregon auto accident lawyer on your side fighting these battles with you.

These battles can be especially important — and especially challenging — when your accident presents a need for a large sum in compensation.

A recent case involving several people injured in auto accidentsBatten v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance — makes for a good example of what we mean. One of those injured people, T.B., was severely hurt in a head-on crash. A different driver hit J.C. while he rode his bicycle, causing injuries that eventually killed him. Another driver hit the car in which L.C. was a passenger, causing severe injuries, and C.R. was a pedestrian severely injured when a fourth driver hit him.

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Here in Portland, an average of more than 5 people died in traffic crashes each month in 2021. Statewide, that number was nearly 50 per month. With more than 580 people dying on Oregon’s roads each year, that leaves hundreds of families harmed as others’ negligence resulted in the wrongful death of their loved ones. This means years of pain and anguish, a lifetime of lost companionship, and a lifetime of lost support. The totality of the damage to your family can be massive, and our Oregon wrongful death lawyers are here to help.

Even here in 2022, the fatalities continue apace. Just last Wednesday, a Willamette Valley man died in a pedestrian accident. Emergency responders indicated that, shortly before 8:00 am, an 84-year-old man behind the wheel of a Dodge pickup truck collided with a 61-year-old man on foot northeast of downtown McMinnville, according to a KPTV report.

Here in Portland, pedestrian deaths in 2021 totaled 27, the highest number in 50 years, according to a report from The Oregonian. The total number of traffic deaths in this city jumped from 54 in 2020 to 63 last year. Statewide, the number jumped from 483 in 2020 to 581 last year.

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The Oregonian reported this week that Portland has lowered the speed limit along a 5.5 mile stretch of 122nd Avenue which it describes as “one of the city’s most dangerous roads.” The speed limit reduction from 35 to 30 mph will apply from the intersection with Northeast Sandy Boulevard to the intersection with Southeast Foster Road.

“The reductions mark the latest changes in what’s been a years-long attempt to reduce speeding on neighborhood streets and bust arterials,” the paper notes. It is especially important because “four of the city’s top-ten most dangerous intersections are on 122nd Avenue.”

The Oregonian reports that 54 people died in Portland traffic crashes last year, “the most since 1996.” That statistic highlights an important fact that can often get lost in discussions like this. Though we tend to think of car crashes as high speed incidents, even accidents at the 35 mph, which few Americans think of as a fast driving speed, can be lethal. A Dutch study republished by the US Federal Highway Administration (see link below) dramatically illustrates the relationship between speed and fatality in traffic accidents, especially those involving pedestrians. The study found that once the impact speed passes about 20 mph the fatality risk for pedestrians increases exponentially.

Few would disagree that today’s cars are safer than cars built in 1967. Still, it is astonishing to discover that a key safety standard applied to virtually every vehicle on America’s roads has not been updated in all that time. The feature is seatback strength, and, as a recent article in The Oregonian’s business section outlines, the standard by which the government assesses it has not changed in 53 years.

Seatback strength is something few car buyers think about. But even if they did, fewer still are in any position to assess it. Auto manufacturers assure customers that car seats meet or exceed all federal safety requirements, without adding that the requirements themselves are so out of date “that a lawn chair could pass it” according to the consumer advocacy organization FairWarning, which authored The Oregonian article.

The organization says engineers who have studied the issue regard the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards for car seats as “laughably weak… In actual rear-end collisions, the seat pushing forward against the weight of a person in the front seat can cause the seat to collapse, sometimes throwing the driver or passenger head-first into the back or out of the rear window, and also endangering anyone in the back seat.”

The Pendleton-based East Oregonian began the New Year with an article that offered a useful reminder both of the danger large trucks pose on Oregon and Washington’s roads – especially in rural areas – and of what the government is trying to do to mitigate the problem.

The Salem-datelined piece focused on truck inspections, which it describes as “the primary tool for preventing accidents that disrupt Oregon’s highways, hospitalize thousands and leave hundreds dead each year.” Perhaps surprisingly for some readers, the newspaper draws a connection between truck safety and the Vision Zero program that has become familiar in Portland and numerous other cities around the country.

In the popular mind Vision Zero is usually associated with pedestrian safety. Obviously large trucks are a part of that, but the broader goal of the program has always been to eliminate traffic deaths completely. A point the East Oregonian makes convincingly is that doing this includes taking a close look at big rigs in rural parts of the state, not just at cars and buses in cities.

The horrific death of a cyclist in New York City earlier this month – a moment captured on video – has brought attention to the way police there and in many other parts of the country treat fatalities brought about by reckless driving.

The New York Times reports that an 18-year-old man has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in the death of a 52-year-old cyclist in Brooklyn earlier this month. Barreling through a red light at high speed, the driver slammed into an SUV that was passing legally through the intersection. The force of the impact flung the SUV caddy-corner across the intersection directly into a cyclist who was patiently waiting for the red light to change on the opposite corner. The entire incident was captured on a dashcam video by another car waiting at the corner where the bike rider died. (Note: the first paragraph of The New York Times story below includes a link to the video. Be warned that it is extremely graphic and unsettling)

The newspaper reports that “bicycle advocates want stronger laws, as well as a cultural change similar to the one around drunken driving.” The question, at its root, is when reckless or negligent behavior crosses the line into criminality. The paper notes that “drivers who cause fatalities are almost never criminally charged, unless there are aggravating circumstances… running a red light is almost never considered reckless driving” even in a case like this where doing so leads to someone’s death.

A tragedy and a near-tragedy on the other side of the country offer important reminders of a problem that recurs every summer: hot car deaths.

According to The New York Times twin one-year-olds died in the Bronx late last month after their father forgot to drop them off at day care. They were left in the backseat of his car while he worked an entire eight hour shift at a VA hospital. A few days later an off-duty firefighter in the neighboring New York City borough of Queens saved a four-year-old boy by smashing the window of a car in a shopping center parking lot.

According to the website Gothamist, the father in the latter incident later told police that he had only been inside the store for fifteen minutes. That highlights one of the key issues with hot car deaths – something that we all cannot be reminded about too many times: “A car can heat up 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. And cracking a window doesn’t help,” as the website SafeKids notes. Younger children, such as the twins in the Bronx, are at particular risk because “their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.”

Two articles published last month in The Oregonian should be drawing our attention to safety issues for pedestrians on Portland’s streets.

Earlier this week the newspaper reported that “more than one-quarter of the pedestrians killed on Portland streets during the last five years were 65 years or older, according to city figures.” It notes that this represents “a dramatic increase from levels seen in recent years.” This followed an article earlier in the month that detailed a rise in traffic deaths in the city even as numbers are falling statewide.

The data related to deaths among elderly pedestrians is particularly alarming. The newspaper writes that roughly 12 percent of Portland’s population is age 65 or older, yet people in this age group account for 16 percent of overall traffic deaths and a shocking 26 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Critically, this is not a short-term anomaly. Those numbers cover the four-and-a-half year period beginning in January 2015, a time-frame during which the city says it has been actively working to reduce traffic fatalities, especially among pedestrians and cyclists. The article also notes that since 2010 more elderly Portlanders “died walking (28) than while driving or in a motor vehicle (23).”

One might have thought that buses – some of the largest vehicles navigating Portland’s streets on a day-to-day basis – are fairly hard to miss. TriMet, however, is experimenting with bright rooftop lights designed to make them easier to see, according to The Oregonian. “The transit agency quietly rolled out the ‘amber safety lights’ in April and, so far, 30 buses are equipped with the light bar. It’s considering installing the devices on all its buses,” the newspaper reports.

The Oregonian, citing TriMet data, writes that “buses log roughly 73,300 miles on a daily basis. In April, TriMet registered 49 collisions involving buses, 25 of which were non-injury crashes involving cars or trucks.” Put another way, that means that TriMet is averaging almost one injury crash per day systemwide. Portland is a large city and there is always going to be a human element involved, but a system in which someone gets hurt every day clearly has more safety work to do.

So, at a basic level, we should all welcome any effort by TriMet to cut its accident rate. The newspaper’s article reports that the lights on the busses are extremely hard to miss, and notes that the cost of installing then is relatively slight – less than $500 per vehicle. Considering the number of bus accidents I have reported on in this blog over the years we can probably all agree that anything which improves safety is a good thing.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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