Archive for May, 2013

Oregon Texting Ban Results in Few Citations

In the state of Oregon, drivers are not permitted to text while behind the wheel. Since January 1, 2010, texting has been a primary offense. This means that police can pull someone over just for sending a text message even if the driver is not breaking any other laws or doing anything else wrong. 

Our Portland accident attorneys know that Oregon is one of 39 states that has a texting ban in place.  Unfortunately, while these texting bans were promoted as ways to save lives by preventing distracted driving accidents, a new article published in USA Today indicates that few citations are actually issued to texting drivers throughout the United States. This means there may be lots of drivers in Oregon who are breaking the law and getting away with it.

Texting Bans Nab Few Drivers

According to USA Today, some states are better than others at issuing citations for texting and driving, with law enforcement giving out more than 1,000 citations each year in certain locations. In other states, however, law enforcement gives out very few tickets even when texting and driving is illegal and is classified as a primary offense.

The number of tickets is not just low it’s very low, with only one citation issued per day on average. With the AAA’s Traffic Safety Culture Index indicating that as many as 35 percent of drivers read texts and 27 percent sent texts while driving in the prior month, obviously there are many drivers who are breaking the texting laws who are not being ticketed for violations.  This is true throughout the United States, including in Oregon where local police tend to write more citations for texting than state police do.

The Challenges in Enforcing Texting Bans

There are many potential reasons why so few texting citations are issued despite laws prohibiting texting while driving. One issue is that the laws are relatively new and are still evolving. Police need time to develop effective ways to enforce the laws and to make sure that they are catching texting drivers.

It is also harder for law enforcement to catch someone with a small cell phone in his hand than it is for police to catch people speeding or breaking other traffic laws.  A car that weighs 3,000 pounds or more is very visible when it is going too fast or when it runs a red light. A driver holding a cell phone that weighs a couple of ounces is harder for police to see.

Are the Laws Effective?

While drivers may not be getting a lot of tickets, there is still hope that the laws are effective in preventing texting and curbing the number of distracted driving accidents. Part of the goal of the laws is to change people’s behavior, and when texting is illegal, hopefully more people will decide not to do it. The threat of a ticket may be enough to reduce texting even if no ticket is actually issued.

The texting and driving bans can also make it easier for car accident victims to prove negligence if they are involved in car accidents with texting drivers. This is helpful for victims who are trying to recover monetary compensation after a car accident that causes injury.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.

Oregon is Bike Friendly But Cycling Accidents Still Happen

Oregon is one of the top 10 most bike-friendly states as reported by the Detroit Free Press. This is good news for bicycle riders in the state, especially as the weather gets warmer and more people head out on outdoor biking adventures or use bikes for commuting over the upcoming months. Unfortunately, although Oregon ranks number three in terms of being bike-friendly, bicycle accidents still happen and they can still cause serious injury or death. 

Our Portland, OR bike accident attorneys know that many crashes are caused by mistakes made by drivers of passenger vehicles who fail to share the roads safely with bicyclists or who don’t understand how the rules of the road apply to bike riders. This May, Bike Safety Month aims to help curb some of these accidents by reminding both drivers and bicycle riders of some important safety tips.

National Bike Safety Month

Bike Safety Month is celebrated throughout the United States, with the League of American Bicyclists organizing many events including a bike-to-work day and a bike-to-school day.  An important part of National Bike Safety Month, however, is educating riders about bike accident risks and educating parents about the dangers that kids face when riding their bikes.

Bicycle riders can protect themselves from some of the dangers of bike riding by wearing reflective gear and/or bright clothing to make it easier for cars to see them; by wearing helmets at all times when riding; and by staying away from high-traffic areas whenever possible. Parents should also limit when and where kids ride unsupervised. No one should be riding in traffic unless they understand the rules of the road and know how to use hand signals to communicate with drivers.

Bike riders, however, can only go so far in protecting themselves from accidents since cars are much faster and much bigger and can cause a crash to occur in just a split second. Drivers of motor vehicles must take responsibility for keeping bicycle riders safe and some of the different things that drivers should do include:

  • Checking for bicycle riders before opening doors. A driver who opens a door in the path of an oncoming bicycle rider could cause serious injury.
  • Respecting the right-of-way of bicycle riders when required by law to yield to bicyclists.
  • Being alert and on-the-lookout for bicycle riders. This is especially important in residential neighborhoods where kids may be out on their bicycles and riding.
  • Avoiding behaviors that increase the risk of bike accidents. Drivers should not drive drunk, drive when they are too tired, or focus on distractions in the car. All of these behaviors can reduce the chances that a driver will see a bicyclist who is riding.
  • Respecting bicycle lanes. One of the reasons Oregon is so bike friendly is our many bike lanes. Drivers should be sure to give bicycle riders space in these lanes and shouldn’t get too close or cut off bicyclists.

By following these important safety tips, drivers can do their part during Bike Safety Month to help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that result from bicycle accidents.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.

Sleeping Driver Blamed in Oregon Traffic Accident

Drowsy driving is a serious issue with 4.2 percent of all drivers admitting in a CDC study that they had fallen asleep while driving in the prior 30 days. While the number of sleeping drivers in Oregon was revealed by the study to be well below the national average at only 2.5 percent, even a single sleeping driver can cause havoc on the roads. 

A recent accident that sent one Oregon man to the hospital is proof enough of the serious consequences that a drowsy driver can cause. Our Oregon accident attorneys have seen many accidents involving drowsy drivers, and the April crash that occurred involving an SUV and a motorcycle was yet one more example of how drowsy driving can lead to tragic accidents, according to authortites.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving Accidents

According to Oregon Live, a 63-year-old motorcycle rider was traveling on Interstate 205 when he was hit by an SUV. The driver of the SUV was reportedly driving his Jeep at around 5:15 a.m. when he fell asleep behind the wheel.

The Jeep drifted towards the right before crashing into a guardrail. This caused the Jeep to then bounce leftward into the center lane and to strike the motorcycle rider. The driver of the Jeep was not injured but was cited for careless driving. The driver of the motorcycle was the unfortunate victim of this drowsy driving accident and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance in serious condition.

The driver of the SUV, if driving while drowsy, put innocent people at risk. Tragically, this driver’s decision to continue to drive while feeling tired ended up causing the motorcycle rider to pay the price.

Avoiding Drowsy Driving Accidents

A driver who doses off for even a second can cause a devastating accident, especially since the sleeping driver won’t be awake to slow down or swerve to try to lessen the force of the impact or avoid a head-on crash. This is why it is so important for every driver to do his part to prevent drowsy driving crashes.

Drivers should:

  • Do everything possible to be sure to get enough sleep. At least eight hours is recommended. Those with sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances who are unable to get enough sleep should seek help with their health issues.
  • Avoid driving after consuming pills or medications that cause drowsiness. Some sleeping pills are still in the body in the morning after they are taken and can increase the chances of a drowsy driving crash.
  • Pull off the side of the road when feeling tired. Drivers should never try to push through and keep driving when they are dozing off, as they put themselves and others at risk.

A driver who is too tired to be behind the wheel but who makes the choice to keep driving can be cited for carelessness as was the driver in this SUV crash. The driver can also be sued and made to pay for the costs of any losses or injuries that he causes others to suffer as a result of his decision to drive while drowsy.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.

Motorcycle Accidents in Oregon in Focus this May

Riding a motorcycle is both fun and practical in Oregon, especially through the summer. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is becoming increasingly dangerous as the number of motorcycle-related fatalities has gone up for fourteen out of the past fifteen years. The Governors Highway Traffic Safety Association recently noted that the increase in fatalities from 2011 to 2012 was especially troubling since the number of fatalities rose by nine percent. 

This nine percent increase in motorcycle fatalities nationwide was more than federal authorities predicted and is a clear reminder that motorcycle safety must remain a top priority. This is why our Portland, OR accident attorneys are urging all drivers to pay attention this May during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

On a per-vehicle-mile basis, motorcycle riders are 30 times more likely to die in car accidents than drivers of cars according to the NHTSA. Efforts need to be made to try to reduce this high accident risk, and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is an important part of those efforts.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is an annual event intended to draw attention to the serious risks that motorcycle riders face. To help make the point about the dangers, the NHTSA provides statistics on the number of motorcycle accident deaths throughout the U.S., including the data indicating that motorcycle accident deaths made up 14 percent of all car accident deaths in 2011 even as motorcycles make up only three percent of all vehicles in the country.

In addition to statistics, NHTSA also provides some safety tips for both motorcycle riders and for drivers. Riders, for example, are urged to:

  • Wear DOT approved helmets.
  • Obey all traffic laws.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear when riding.
  • Use reflective tape, especially when riding at night.
  • Wear bright colors so drivers can see you more easily.
  • Use hand signals combined with turn signals to communicate your intentions to drivers and to make sure you have their attention.
  • Ride in a position within your lane that makes you most visible to other drivers.

Motorcycle riders can only do so much, unfortunately, and a lot of responsibility for avoiding motorcycle accidents lies with drivers of passenger cars. NHTSA has some advice for these drivers as well including:

  • Avoiding distracted driving.
  • Not trying to share lanes or crowd motorcycle riders (leave them their own lane).
  • Signaling before changing lanes or merging with traffic so motorcycle riders can move out of the way of the vehicle.
  • Paying careful attention to blind spots to make sure you don’t miss a motorcycle.
  • Understanding that motorcycle riders may forget to turn off their turn signals since they do not go off automatically like they do in many cars. This means that waiting to see what a motorcyclist does is very important.
  • Avoiding any type of tailgating with motorcycle riders. At least three to four seconds of following distance should be left when a motorcycle is in front.

This Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, drivers should make a commitment to follow these safety practices both now and in the future. This could hopefully help to stop the continuing increases in the number of motorcycle accident deaths so all riders could be safer.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Portland area, contact  Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.