Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

An article last week in The Oregonian spotlighted efforts to improve pedestrian safety and prevent pedestrian and car accidents in the areas east of Interstate 205. According to the newspaper, in the last year the city has embarked on a $1.75 million program “to build 17 beacons at dangerous pedestrian safety crossings.”

The article quotes State Representative Shemia Fagan, who it describes as the driving force behind the project, calling the beacons an important safety improvement in a part of our city where news all too frequently is “sad, or scary or downright tragic.”

In the year since Fagan began pushing the issue only five of the planned 17 beacons have been installed (the first of the two links to The Oregonian provided below will also take you to a map which shows both where beacons have already been installed and locations where they are planned). The locations, which the newspaper describes as “problematic intersections”: “were identified and prioritized through the East Portland In Motion plan… a community process approved in 2012.” Funding for the project comes from the state.

The Oregonian is reporting that an arrest has been made in one of the most egregious Oregon distracted driving cases in recent memory. According to the newspaper, a 23-year-old Gresham woman is now under arrest after “taking video on her cellphone when she drove into three teens in a crosswalk outside their high school.”

Further investigation showed that at the time of the Oregon pedestrian accident the driver did not have her hands on the steering wheel. Perhaps even more shocking is the revelation that the driver appears to have been taking a video of her own son at the time of the accident. “A 19-second-long clip… shows the 23-year-old with the device in her left hand and making gestures at her son in the back seat with her right hand just before she hits three girls outside Centennial High School on Jan. 15,” the paper reports.

According to the newspaper “the three injured girls, between 14 and 15-years-old, survived the crash” though all three were seriously injured. The accident took place in January and The Oregonian reports that the driver remained at the scene of the accident and cooperated with law enforcement. She has now been charged with “third-degree assault, reckless endangering and reckless driving.” Witnesses reported the driver was traveling at nearly 40 miles per hour when she struck the three pedestrians.

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.”

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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