Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

Last week Portland suffered yet another tragic and preventable crosswalk death. The fact that this fatal Oregon traffic accident also involved a truck making a turn merely highlights the ongoing issue of pedestrian safety that I have written about so frequently.

According to The Oregonian a 61-year-old man from Northeast Portland “was using his three-wheeled wheelchair scooter in a marked crosswalk when a turning truck struck him.” It quotes a Portland police spokesman confirming that as the victim “crossed with the ‘walk’ signal, an eastbound truck turned south onto Naito Parkway and struck him.” The newspaper reports that the man died the following day at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. The truck driver is reported to be cooperating with police.

There are a number of potential legal issues raised by this Oregon traffic accident. As is often the case in a death under these circumstances the possibility of a wrongful death action exists. It is worth considering whether there is a product liability issue involved in this incident. Considering the sheer number of automotive product recalls over the last year it is worth exploring whether the truck involved in this fatal Oregon traffic accident may have been – or ought to be – subject to a recall.

An article published this week in the Salem Statesman-Journal highlights an alarming fact: in this one relatively small city “between December 26 and January 15 three vehicle crashes involving pedestrians resulted in four deaths.”

The paper goes on to note that “all three crashes took place in darkness” and that “no drivers have been found to be at fault.” After so many fatal Salem pedestrian accidents in such a short period of time, however, some sort of an investigation is warranted – one that goes beyond the three individual accidents to look at broader traffic, pedestrian and biking patterns in an effort to make the city’s streets safer. The article quotes a 63-year-old South Salem resident who points out that the problem is the city’s large number of unmarked crosswalks. “At least 95 percent of cars do not even slow down, although they are required by law to stop and wait for you to cross,” he said.

The sudden rise in fatal pedestrian accidents in Salem is particularly troublesome because at the time of the first one, on December 26, the city had not witnessed a fatal pedestrian accident in over a year. The paper also notes that while fatalities are rare, accidents themselves are not. “Between December 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014 there were 22 pedestrian-related crashes in Salem that injured 25 people, according to data from the Oregon Department of Transportation” the newspaper reports.

The Oregonian reports this morning on an Oregon pedestrian death involving a MAX train. The Oregon pedestrian accident took the life of a 71-year-old Portland man Friday night. “Transit police are continuing to investigate the incident,” according to the newspaper.

The man reportedly died when hit by a MAX train early “Friday night near East Burnside and 160th Avenue.” The newspaper quotes a Tri-Met spokesperson saying that “the Blue Line train was eastbound and that trains usually move about 35 mph in the area where the incident took place. She said the accident took place near a pedestrian crossing specifically designed to help make sure that people getting ready to cross the tracks have a good view of oncoming trains.”

The Oregonian quotes family members saying that the victim had lived in the neighborhood since 2001 and was in good health. He was taking his regular evening walk at the time of the accident, according to family members who spoke to the newspaper.

New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, unveiled a plan yesterday designed to eliminate pedestrian traffic deaths in America’s largest city. His proposals are worth looking at here in Oregon because they may contain lessons we can learn from here in Portland.

According to the New York Times, the focus of the initiative is stepped-up enforcement of existing laws combined with a proposal to lower the city’s speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour. “Our lives are literally in each other’s hands. Our children’s lives are in each other’s hands,” the mayor told a news conference Tuesday.

The strategy is called “Vision Zero” and is “adopted from a Swedish traffic safety approach that views all traffic deaths as inherently preventable,” according to the Times. De Blasio advocated these measures during his campaign last year, but they took on special urgency when New York “experienced a spate of traffic deaths, including three pedestrian deaths last month in fewer than 10 days” in the first weeks after the new mayor took office.

The Oregonian highlights an initiative by Beaverton’s police that is good for the public, and could serve as a model for other communities across Oregon. According to the newspaper as part of a pedestrian safety initiative “more than 30 citations were issued and one arrest made” yesterday alone in Beaverton.

“Beaverton police patrolled Southwest Hall Boulevard and Broadway Street between 11 am and 1 pm to raise awareness and enforce pedestrian right of way laws… There were 25 crosswalk-related citations issued Wednesday and another seven for other traffic-related violations,” the paper reports, citing a Beaverton police spokesperson.

Let’s pause and think about that for a moment: more than 30 violations observed and ticketed by police in and around a single intersection over a period of just two hours on a weekday. The newspaper notes that two similar patrols elsewhere in the city during September resulted in “69 crosswalk-related citations and 23 citations for other traffic-related violations,” so it is fair to say that this week’s experience can be called typical. Many Oregon car accidents are avoidable – this kind of activity often leads to the most avoidable accidents of all.

A ruling last week by the Oregon Supreme Court, as reported by The Oregonian, leaves justice unfulfilled for one Beaverton woman, though a chance remains that a federal court will view the case differently.

According to the newspaper, the state’s highest court ruled 4-3 that because of a legal technicality the city of Beaverton does not have to pay the victim of one of its police officers’ negligence the $507,500 ordered by a trial court. A jury ordered the money paid to a woman who was left disabled after she was hit by a Beaverton police car while crossing at an unmarked crosswalk in 2007.

The half-million dollar figure for damages in the Oregon car and pedestrian accident case is, itself, a significant reduction of the original verdict. According to the newspaper the jury originally decided on more than $1 million in damages but also found that the victim “and the former Beaverton police officer who had been driving the car… were equally at fault” which led to the cash being cut by half. The city appealed to have its share further reduced to $200,000 citing a state law that caps the liability of municipalities. The federal court hearing the appeal asked the Oregon Supreme Court, the paper reports, to rule on two questions: first, whether the state constitution protects the victim’s “right to a remedy and, if so, whether” $200,000 would be enough. “The court answered yes to both questions” despite the fact that the victim’s documented “medical bills totaled at least $500,000” as reported by The Oregonian.

Figures published recently in The Oregonian paint a distressing picture of the safety situation for pedestrians here in Oregon. Citing data compiled by the Oregon Department of Transportation the paper reports that “pedestrian deaths in Oregon are up 23 percent over last year.”

With the death in late October of a 58-year-old man on the Hawthorne Bridge the total number of Oregon pedestrian deaths for 2012 reached 48. “That matches the total for all of 2011,” the paper reports, citing an ODOT spokeswoman. The victim of this latest fatal Oregon car accident involving a pedestrian was struck by an eastbound car as he crossed from one side of the bridge to the other. He had been using the bridge to watch his wife compete in a rowing race.

The sharp rise in pedestrian fatalities is especially surprising since bicycle-related deaths have fallen over the same period. The Oregonian reports that bicycle deaths have dropped 41 percent: seven this year compared to 12 during the same period in 2011.

A recent op-ed piece in The Oregonian raises significant questions about transportation funding and Portland’s streets. Its arguments – whether one agrees with them or not – bear consideration even in a time of tight budgets and, often, cutbacks.

The author, Stephanie Routh, executive director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, argues that the transportation bill passed by Congress earlier this summer falls far short of what is needed to fund improvements to “Portland’s most dangerous streets.”

“Congress didn’t improve on the situation with its new federal funding bill, dramatically reducing dedicated funds for walking and biking safety improvements,” she writes. “The lack of relief for known safety problems may result in preventable deaths of people walking, biking, driving or taking transit for years to come.”

The latest newsletter from Oregon’s Department of Transportation offers a timely reminder now that spring is here: “Warmer weather and longer days naturally bring out more walkers,” it notes. “It is each individual’s responsibility to be safe – on foot or behind the wheel.”

The agency offers a dual reminder. Drivers should be aware that more people will be walking (and, though the release does not mention it, biking) with the arrival of spring and summer. That fact requires special vigilance on the part of drivers. Pedestrians, however, also need to be reminded responsibility is, so to speak, a two-way street. Situational awareness can save your life.

According to the ODOT “as of April 11, 20 pedestrians have died in vehicle related crashes” across Oregon. That number represents a 25% increase in Oregon pedestrian car crashes compared to the same time period last year. The statistic is particularly striking since, as the newsletter notes, “overall Oregon is down slightly in vehicle-related fatalities for 2012 (74 deaths so far compared to 76 at this time in 2011).”

Fox News used to run a regular segment called “stupid criminals.” If it were still on the air the subject of today’s Oregon drunk driving blog would definitely be a candidate.

According to The Oregonian, Aaron Arrell killed a woman in an Oregon fatal hit-and-run accident in March, and was apprehended in large part because he tried to cover his tracks by having his wife phone police to report their van – the vehicle involved in the accident – stolen. “Had they not called, it may have gone unsolved,” the paper quotes a Multnomah County prosecutor saying.

When police caught up with Arrell – based largely on the description of the vehicle that his wife had given them – he tested for blood alcohol at almost twice the legal limit, according to the paper. It also emerged that he was driving on a suspended license, and had been cited twice previously for doing so in the weeks prior to the Portland drunk driving fatality.

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