A 23-year-old Woodburn woman was arrested and charged with a series of offenses after a single-car accident in Clackamas County. According to The Oregonian the accident took place a few days before Christmas on Highway 211 near South Palmer Road. The woman “is accused of second-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and recklessly endangering another stemming from a single-car crash that killed one of her three passengers.”
The newspaper reports that the vehicle “veered off the road and struck a tree.” One of the passengers, a 26-year-old Woodburn man, died at the scene of the accident. The driver and the other two passengers were all taken to OHSU hospital, where the driver was later arrested.
New Year’s Eve is next Monday. That means that for many people one of the most dangerous nights of the year to be out on the roads will also be part of an extra-long holiday weekend. As is always the case over New Year’s there will be many options involving both public transport and taxi/ride share systems to help people get home safely. A number of these can be found by clicking the KATU-TV link below.
The details of that pre-Christmas accident, however, offer useful reminders about some of the safety issues that always come up at this time of year. It is widely known that restaurants, bars and retail stores are not allowed to sell alcohol to someone who appears to be drunk. In Oregon, however, that responsibility also extends to social hosts. They can be held legally liable for damage that a drunk driver does if they continued to provide alcohol, at a party for example, after the person appeared to be intoxicated. It is also important to remember that a driver always bears responsibility for the safety of his or her passengers as outlined in the state’s reckless driving laws.
As a Portland lawyer I see many cases like this every year. That is why the holidays are a good time to remind ourselves of Oregon’s DUII rules. ORS 813.010 defines DUII as operating a motor vehicle with “0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in the blood of the person.” For most people that involves only one or two drinks – less than it takes for many people to ‘feel’ drunk. It is also important, however, to remember that it is possible to fall foul of the law with even less alcohol than that in one’s bloodstream. Section 1(b) of 813.010 explicitly makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis or any other controlled substance, and the law’s next sentence extends that prohibition to “any combination of intoxicating liquor, cannabis, a controlled substance and an inhalant.” Like all states, Oregon also has an “implied consent” law (ORS 813.100). This, in effect, makes submitting to a breath test mandatory for any driver stopped by law enforcement, and allows blood tests to be conducted in the aftermath of an accident.
The annual ritual of free rides home combined with numerous police sobriety checkpoints has done much to reduce drunk driving nationwide on New Year’s. Yet accidents like the one last week are a reminder that we are still far from a safe, accident-free, holiday season. Achieving that requires responsible behavior on everyone’s part. That can mean volunteering to act as a designated driver, but, equally importantly, it can mean intervening to stop someone who is not sober from getting behind the wheel. A safe New Year’s requires both personal responsibility and looking out for one another.
The Oregonian: Woodburn woman accused of manslaughter, driving drunk after Highway 211 fatal crash
KATU.com: Portland offers free, discounted rides for New Year’s Eve celebrations
Oregon Liquor Control Commission: Responsible Party Host Tips
ORS 471.565: Liability for providing or serving alcoholic beverages to intoxicated person
ORS 811.140: Reckless Driving