A terrible story from California this week reminds all of us that distracted driving laws – be they here in Oregon or elsewhere – cannot, by themselves, stop some people from behaving destructively. To be effective, the laws require enforcement by police and the accountability provided by courts.
According to a report by the Los Angeles TV station KTLA, a 20-year-old Glendale woman now faces vehicular manslaughter charges “after allegedly running a stop sign and killing an elderly pedestrian while texting on her cell-phone.” The station reports that the pedestrian, an 80-year-old man, was thrown into the air and died of the head trauma suffered as he landed on the sidewalk. The accident took place in September. Police arrested the driver a few days ago after concluding a three-month investigation.
California’s laws on cellphone use by drivers are similar to Oregon’s (in some respects they are actually stronger: California explicitly bans cellphone use by school bus drivers in all circumstances, a provision the Oregon distracted driving law omits). Like California, the Oregon distracted driving law also allows for “primary” enforcement, meaning that offenders can be pulled over solely for breaking the ban on using a handheld phone or texting while driving. The question we have to ask is how often this actually happens (texting, in particular, is relatively easy to hide by simply holding the phone low enough that it is difficult or impossible for an officer glancing through the driver’s window to see).
The accountability provided by our courts is an important part of this equation. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a Portland distracted driver you owe it to yourself to speak with an Oregon distracted driving attorney at the earliest possible opportunity. The criminal and civil justice systems provide different types of accountability. For many victims a civil case may offer their best opportunity to ensure that justice is done.