Washington County injury attorneys are well aware that the common public perception in the Portland area is that bicycle drivers behave badly in traffic. A number of stories have made the headlines recently where cyclists have caused buses to make emergency stops, and where they crossed train tracks literally a split second before the train arrived.
However, an ODOT sting targeting aggressive drivers in the Portland area could go a long way to dispelling the notion that it’s the cyclists who are causing the problems on Oregon roads. The operation was carried out by both the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The sting looked not just at aggressive driving, but also how people drive around semi-trucks. An ODOT semi drove up and down a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 5 near the Highway 217 interchange. Sheriff’s deputies driving nearby watched for how other drivers reacted with the semi, as well as for aggressive driving tendencies in general. They were looking for things like:
- Following too closely
- Dangerous lane changes
- Changing lanes without using a signal
- Cutting trucks and other drivers off
Even Washington County injury lawyers were surprised at the results, which saw no fewer than 216 traffic stops and 163 citations issued. Those numbers were accumulated in the space of just two days.
A relatively profitable sting operation
Each one of the 163 citations issued came with a fine of $260, which means that more than $43,000 worth of fines were handed out in the 48-hour operation. The most common fines were for:
- Following too closely
- Unsafe lane changes
A number of cycling organizations are suggesting that the same kind of operation that was used to target aggressive drivers on Interstate 5 should be used in town, but they also suggest using a cyclist on a cargo bike or carrying kids in a trailer in place of the semi-truck.
They’ve done similar stings on behalf of pedestrians
Washington County injury attorneys point out that the Portland Police Bureau has worked with the PBOT on crosswalk enforcement stings. In these cases, a PBOT employee attempts to cross a city street at busy crosswalks. If anyone fails to stop for the “decoy,” the police pull them over and issue the driver who failed to stop a citation.
Should the same be done for cyclists? They are, by the nature of their transport, more exposed to dangerous drivers than pedestrians are, and far too many cyclists are injured and killed in Portland every year to discount any opportunity to make the roads safer, including sting operations. At the very least, a sting operation using a cyclist as a decoy would yield very interesting results.
Fines on a sliding scale?
Cyclists who run red lights are subject to the same $260 fine as aggressive motorists. Some think this is unfair and that a sliding scale of fines should be introduced, related to vehicle weight. The question is, does this mean the fine for the cyclist should be reduced, or should the fine for heavier vehicles be increased? It’s a subject of great debate between motorists and cycling organizations.
One thing is certain. In a collision between a bicycle and a vehicle with four wheels or more, the bicycle is always going to come out second best. Even when wearing safety helmets, cyclists have precious little protection between themselves and the road.
When aggressive driving leads to a cyclist being injured—or worse—Washington County injury attorneys believe the motorist should be held morally, legally and financially responsible. Operations to identify and punish aggressive driving in any form are to be welcomed.
No one is suggesting that people on bicycles never break the rules of the road, and no one is suggesting that those who are caught doing so shouldn’t be punished just as severely as motorists. If someone on a bicycle causes an injury to a fellow road user, they should also be held responsible.
The arguments between people on bicycles and people in cars, trucks and SUV’s will continue for as long as both sets continue to share the road. Debate has its place in society, certainly. Aggressive driving that leads to road users being injured or killed, however, does not. Anyone who has been the victim of an aggressive driver shouldn’t hesitate to contact a competent and experienced Washington County personal injury attorney for a free consultation. Find out what your options are and about the compensation to which you’re fully entitled. Let a good personal injury attorney deal with the aggressive driver for you, as well as the aggressive driver’s insurance company.