In this Blog category you will find articles about motor vehicle accidents and how to avoid them. Personal Injury suits and insurance claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.
Nationwide, distracted drivers account for one in ten traffic fatalities and 18 percent of traffic injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because one life lost is one too many, neighboring Washington and Oregon states have recently expanded their distracted driving laws banning cellphone use.
Washington Adds Any Mobile Electronic Device to its Distracted Driving Law
Beginning July 23, 2017, those driving in Washington who are caught reading, writing, or viewing messages, pictures and data on any handheld electronic device, even while stopped at a red light, stop sign, or in stop-and-go traffic can be ticketed.
A decade ago, Washington was the first state with a texting ban. Following a 30 percent increase in distracted driving fatalities in the state between 2014 and 2015, the Washington State House in May approved expanding its “Driving under the Influence of Electronics” law with a 46-13 vote, which bans holding a cellphone or other electronic device while driving or stopped in traffic. After a 21-8 vote of approval in the Senate, the bill returned to the House for concurrence with Senate amendments.
Before, drivers in Washington could only be ticketed for texting and holding a phone to their ear. Now use of any mobile electronic device while driving, except to call 911 or emergency services, is considered a primary offense, subject to a fine of $136 for the first offense and $234 for the second. The violation will then be reported to the driver’s insurance company and will appear on the driver’s record. During the first several months, Washington State Highway Patrol will issue only warnings to educate motorists.
Eating, smoking and grooming, or anything that is not driving will also be a secondary offense (“Driving dangerously distracted”), subject to an extra fine of $99. Drivers engaged in those distracting behaviors will not be stopped unless, at the time, they were committing a separate primary offense, such as speeding or failing to signal.
If you think the law is too strict, think about this: texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds, enough time to drive the entire length of a football field at 55 miles per hour while blind-folded.
Oregon’s Driving under the Influence of Electronics Law to Be Enacted in October
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) sees traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving as an epidemic. According to a report from ODOT’s Distracted Driving Task Force, in Oregon a crash caused by distracted driving occurs approximately every three hours. Between 2011 and 2015, distracted drivers caused 8,951 crashes in Oregon that resulted in 54 deaths, with fourteen of those deaths related to the use of a cellphone.
With those grim statistics in mind, in May 2017 the Oregon legislature passed 46-13 “Driving under the Influence of Electronics “ law House bill 2597, imposing a fine of up to $2000 for using a “mobile electronic device” while driving. Fines for a first offense could total $1000, but could be erased if drivers take a state-approved distracted driving avoidance class at their own expense. Following offenses, or a first offense that causes a traffic collision, would result in higher fines that could not be waived. In June 2017, the Senate passed the bill with a 21-8 vote, and sent it back to the House for concurrence with revisions, to be enacted on October 1.
“Portland’s long history of transportation innovation is about to enter a new chapter. My Goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year. To the inventors, investors, and innovators, I’m here to say that Portland is open for business.” — Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Business Alliance April Forum Breakfast.
Anticipating a future in which driverless cars are commonly used to facilitate transportation, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has long been a proponent of getting Portland to adapt to the oncoming technology in its initial stages. His goal of attracting automakers to the city to test their driverless vehicles has overcome significant hurdles and is picking up steam.
On April 19th, the mayor and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced the Smart Autonomous Vehicles Initiative (SAVI). The initiative authorized PBOT to develop self-driving vehicle policies and seek proposals from automakers that would like to test these vehicles on the city’s road system.
City officials see the many potential advantages the technology can bring to advance Portland’s transportation goals, including Vision Zero’s arduous quest to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2025. City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the pilot program to attract companies looking to further the technology by testing on public roads.
The Smart Autonomous Vehicle Initiative
SAVI contains four elements that are working in harmony to advance Portland’s top transportation goals. They include:
- A proposition for City Council and the general public to review that includes policies that confirm that autonomous vehicles will serve the city’s safety, equity, climate, and economic goals.
- Publishing a Request for Information that invites autonomous vehicle (AV) testing to advance stated goals.
- Adopting an Interim Administrative Rule that allows AV engineers to apply to test, pilot, or deploy AVs in Portland.
- Getting Portlanders involved in shaping new road rules for AVs.
We are now in the fourth phase of the initiative, as PBOT has invited Portland residents to review its Draft Autonomous Vehicles policy. So, whether you welcome the idea of driverless vehicles taking over the roads or are hesitant to give up the wheel, it seems inevitable that
What driver hasn’t impatiently waited to make a left-hand turn, while anxiously anticipating a quick dash between two oncoming cars? It’s a dangerous move that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says is involved in 61 percent of crashes that take place while turning.
A study by New York’s transportation planners also concluded that left-hand turns were three times as likely to kill pedestrians as right-hand turns, and 36 percent of fatal accidents involving a motorcycle involve a left-hand turn in front of the motorcycle.
Even when there is a left-turn lane and traffic signal, if your judgement is off or visibility is poor you are risking a collision. AAA advises drivers to signal a left-hand turn at least 150 feet in advance of the intersection, and yield the right of way to other traffic. To safely complete a left-hand turn, you must consider:
- The speed of oncoming traffic
- The time involved to complete the turn before the light changes
- Whether or not there are other vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles or pedestrians in the path
Whenever possible, it is always better to avoid a left-hand turn by using a different route.
UPS Finds a Way to Eliminate Left-Hand Turns
While considering the danger of left-hand turns, United Parcel Service also was concerned about the time its drivers spent at each left-hand turn intersection. Because idling and waiting to turn left takes time and uses fuel, in 2004 UPS began to require that its drivers avoid turning left whenever possible.
The company later added to its trucks an onboard GPS navigation system called ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation), that tells drivers the best route to take using right turns. By choosing driver routes that minimize and sometimes eliminate left-hand turns, UPS has been able to save millions of gallons of fuel and decrease driver time in making deliveries.
How do UPS drivers do it? Instead of waiting to make a left turn, a driver continues ahead to the next intersection, turns right, and then makes two more right turns around the block, using the traffic light to go straight across the intersection. While some left-hand turns are unavoidable or not always necessary, such as in residential neighborhoods where traffic is low, when possible this maneuver can help any driver avoid accidents, while saving time and fuel.
Left-hand Turns on and off Highways Are Especially Dangerous
Higher speed limits on many highways across Central and Eastern Oregon went into effect in 2016, pushing the maximum allowable speed limit to 65 mph on U.S. Highway 20, which was a contributing factor in this accident.
On March 24, 2017, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a report of a fatal two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 20E in Brothers, Oregon. An investigation of the accident revealed that a 2005 Nissan Altima, while traveling westbound, was struck by an eastbound 2010 Toyota Rav4 attempting to make a left-hand turn into the Brothers Rest Area. The Toyota’s front passenger side corner impacted the front of the Nissan, causing extensive damage. One of the passengers suffered fatal injuries as a result of the collision.
Diverging Diamond Interchange Replaces Left-hand Turns
In 2009, the State of Missouri constructed the first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also called the Double Crossover Diamond Interchange (DCD) to solve the problem of dangerous freeway left-hand turns. Since then, more than 80 have been built in the U.S. Due to its safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, the DDI has become a popular choice for upgrades to high volume intersections.
A traditional left-turn intersection uses a 3-phase traffic signal with a separate left turn phase and 26 points of conflict between vehicles. With a Diverging Diamond Interchange, through traffic and left turns happen at the same time, eliminating the need for a separate left turn phase, and reducing conflict points to 14, to reduce collisions by 50% and minimize their severity.
A DDI is more efficient with fewer signal cycles and less chance for conflict and accidents because it allows for free-flowing movements that aren’t conflicting with other traffic movements. One direction moves at a time, clearing out all the traffic, while avoiding wait time for a left-turn signal.
Allstate recently released its latest America’s Best Drivers Report and by the looks of it, Portland drivers are getting worse. Allstate reviews its own claim data to rank cities according to various factors that depict their driving abilities. Last year, Portland ranked at the very top — of the very last page — at #181.
The report analyzes the average number of years that take place between insurance claims, the relative claim likelihood, how many hard braking events occurred within 1,000 miles, and also accounts for each city’s rank after controlling for the population density and average annual precipitation. The report also contrasts each city’s suburban metro area to depict how much time passes, on average, between accident claims in traditionally less congested areas. In Portland, the average driver goes just 6.5 years between accident claims. The national average is 10 years. Portland suburbs also rise above the national average, with 8.6 years between claims.
Portland has been steadily dropping in the rankings since 2010 when the city placed at 113th.
How Allstate Collects Data
Allstate’s report is based on collision frequency and evaluates data collected from its own archive of claims. The report also includes data collected by special sensors installed in many of their drivers’ cars that detect the movement of the vehicle. Allstate customers agree to install these devices in exchange for an insurance discount. These devices detected a high rate of hard braking events among Portland drivers. Hard braking events are strong predictors of collisions.
When a hard brake event occurs, a rapidly-moving vehicle experiences a drastic decrease in speed. At times, the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system is activated. Hard brakes often occur when there is significant congestion on the roads but can happen at any time a driver is distracted or following the vehicle ahead too closely. These events are also common on wet roads and are almost always a reaction to an unexpected situation.
“Lead Foot” Syndrome
Allstate and Progressive regularly use data from devices that monitor their customers’ driving habits in order to reward them for good driving. Progressive releases their own annual report evaluating how long it really takes drivers to come to a complete stop. Their first
If the past 30 days of traffic statistics are an indication, we could see a record number of traffic fatalities in the days up to and during July 4th, historically the deadliest holiday for fatal crashes.
Predictions for Record July 4th Road Travel
For the fourth year in a row, AAA is expecting record travel on July 4th. According to its statistics, 44.2 Americans (13.7 percent of the population) will travel 50 or more miles away from home, with nearly 80 percent of trips by vehicle. It adds up to 1.2 million more travelers than last year and an increase of 2.9 percent over 2016. Those numbers point to the highest travel volume for the holiday on record.
AAA reported as many as 22 percent saying they will head to the beach. Small towns and rural areas will be the next popular destinations for 21 percent, and the cities will see an increase of 19 percent. Ten percent will head to lake areas, and mountains will be the destination for only 5 percent. In all, more than half-million Oregonians will get away during the July 4 holiday, the majority by vehicle.
Oregon’s Robust Economy Encourages More Travel
Oregon’s economy plays a part in the amount of holiday travel throughout the state and the likelihood of traffic fatalities. In December 2011 during the recession, the Oregon unemployment rate was at 8.9 percent. Six months later in July, with the unemployment rate still high, there were no recorded traffic fatalities on July 4th, considered to be one of the deadliest holidays for travel.
This February’s unemployment rate was the state’s best showing since at least 1976. Today’s low Oregon unemployment rate of only 4 percent means more discretionary income to plan getaway trips, with fewer Oregonians opting for “staycations.” It could also mean more fatal crashes.
More Vehicles on the Road Due to Lower Gas Prices
The price of gasoline also determines the likelihood of holiday travel. Nearly all states have seen a yearly price drop at the gas pump, which tends to encourage more trips. Gas prices have been declining every year since 2014, when the price per gallon was over $3.50. Today’s price of only $2.29 ($2.67 in Oregon) during July fuels an increase in holiday travel.
Examining collision claims from January 2012 to October 2016, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a leading insurance research group, showed in the results of its recent study that claims in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon increased 3% in the years since legal recreational marijuana sales began between January 2014 and October 2016, when compared with surrounding states.
The Highway Loss Data Institute’s study conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls, to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use. Medical marijuana use was permitted during that time in Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and Idaho did not permit it.
HLDI compared loss results for Colorado, Oregon and Washington individually with loss results for adjacent states without legalized recreational marijuana use prior to November 2016. Colorado’s increase in claim frequency was 14 percent higher than neighboring Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Washington’s claim frequency increase was 6 percent higher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon’s increase was 4 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. The combined increase for all three states was 3 percent. The study accounted for the following factors, using neighboring states with car crash increase for comparison:
- Number of vehicles on the road
- Age and gender of drivers
- Weather and seasonality
- Whether the driver was employed
“Worry that legalized marijuana is increasing crash rates isn’t misplaced,” said David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “HLDI’s findings on the early experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington should give other states eyeing legalization pause.”
Earlier AAA Foundation Study Shows Similar Results
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a similar study in 2016, showing traffic fatalities had increased 6 percent in Washington from 2013 to 2014 after marijuana was legalized in that state, while national fatalities decreased during that time. AAA’s study showed that one in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana.
AAA Study Questions Validity of Marijuana Blood Test
The AAA study also concluded that limits of THC (the intoxicating chemical in marijuana), based on blood test established by states with legal marijuana, have no scientific basis because there is no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. Frequent users of the drug can also show persistent levels of it long after use, while THC levels can decline more rapidly in occasional users, causing innocent drivers to be convicted and guilty drivers released. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours, requiring a warrant and transport to a police station or hospital for testing. By that time, the drug may no longer be present.
Because blood tests are imprecise with measuring levels of THC, the AAA Foundation recommended replacing current laws with ones that rely on police officer conducted field sobriety tests, backed up by a test for the presence of THC.
Oregon Police Drug Recognition Program
In Oregon, police officers attend a Drug Recognition Program. When an officer in Oregon pulls over a car for a traffic violation such as speeding, swerving, or broken taillights or if the driver is suspected of a crime, the officer evaluates the driver for the following obvious signs:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Candy bar wrappers
- “Beavis and Butthead” type laugh
When the officer suspects that the person is intoxicated, he or she asks the driver to undergo the following field sobriety test:
- Balancing on a line and walking with one foot in front of the other
- Balancing on one leg
- Touching one finger to the nose
Field Sobriety Tests Used by California Police
Police officers in California use a somewhat different set of field sobriety tests.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The officer moves an object or his or her own finger from side to side in front of the person’s face to detect an involuntary jerking of the eye associated with high levels of intoxication. A person’s eye will normally jerk after being strained beyond a 45 degree angle. If the eye begins to jerk at or before moving 45 degrees, it is evidence that the driver is under the influence.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that this test is 77 percent reliable.
Walk and Turn Test (also called the “Walk the Line Test”)
The officer asks the suspected offender to walk a certain number of steps in a straight line and observes if the person:
- Loses balance
- Makes the wrong number of steps
- Is unable to stay on the line
- Breaks while walking
- Begins before instructed
NHTSA estimates that this test is effective 68 percent of the time.
One Leg Stand Test
The officer instructs a suspect standing on one leg to raise his or her foot, hold still, count, and look down. The officer may arrest the suspect if he or she is:
- Putting the raised foot down
NHTSA estimates that this test is effective 65 percent of the time.
To be fully autonomous, self-driving cars must identify all nearby objects correctly, have perfectly updated mapping systems, and avoid all software glitches. Nearly all companies involved in producing autonomous vehicles rely on LIDAR for vehicle navigation. Can LIDAR deliver the kind of accuracy and dependability required of self-driving cars?
LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, was invented soon after the 1958 invention of lasers. Using a laser, scanner, and a GPS receiver, LIDAR works by bouncing light off far-away things to precisely determine their distance and shape. Since light travels at a predictable speed of 671 million miles per hour, the time it takes for projected light to bounce off objects and return shows the distance to whatever is around the LIDAR system, typically down to a centimeter. Some LIDAR systems take millions of measurements every second. By building up a mosaic of these measurements in 360 degrees, LIDAR can paint a three-dimensional picture of the world around it.
LIDAR Used by NOAA and US Forestry Service
LIDAR is used as a surveying tool to make high-resolution maps, with applications in geography, geology, seismology, archeology, forestry, atmospheric physics, and laser guidance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses LIDAR to produce accurate shoreline maps, make digital elevation models, and to assist in emergency response operations. Because the technology can show accurate data on canopy cover, openings, and density of trees, the U.S. Forestry Service currently plans to adopt LIDAR to improve forest thinning efforts. Capabilities of LIDAR instruments vary, with the best sensors able to see details of a few centimeters at distances of more than 100 meters.
Limitations with Camera and Radar in Autonomous Vehicles
Self-driving vehicles being tested by companies such as Alphabet, Uber, and Toyota rely on LIDAR to locate themselves on the detailed maps they need to identify objects around them. Most companies in the race to commercialize self-driving cars, with the exception of Tesla, consider LIDAR essential. Tesla instead relies solely on cameras and radar. Supplementing its front-facing camera, a Tesla Model S also incorporates long-range front facing radar that can reach over 500 feet, short-range ultrasonic sensors which can detect objects up to 16 feet, and GPS. However, radar sensors can’t see much detail, and cameras don’t perform well in conditions with low light or glare. A camera lens can also get dirty or covered with snow or not see behind fogged-up glass.
LIDAR Does Not Work in All Situations
LIDAR also has limitations. It doesn’t work in fog, heavy rain, or snow. With snow on the ground, a LIDAR sensor and camera have a difficult time seeing lane markers and other markers that help a driverless car drive and change lanes safely. Even in good weather, road markings may not be visible, causing many to say that changes need to be made to the infrastructure for autonomous cars to be successful on the streets. Ford seems to have found a solution to the problem of invisible road markings with its high-resolution 3D maps that provide information about the road and what is above the road.
Driverless cars, which rely on landmarks to pinpoint themselves on the map, also struggle going over bridges. Because bridges don’t have many environmental cues like surrounding buildings, even with GPS it is hard for an autonomous car to determine where it is. Driving in cities with tall buildings, where it is difficult to receive a GPS signal, is also a problem for an autonomous vehicle, and “drop-outs” can occur. These are issues that technologists need to solve before driverless cars become completely road-ready.
Compared to Portland political demonstrations in November and January, demonstrations on June 4, 2017 were well maintained within three downtown city blocks, with relatively minimal traffic disruption.
“The intent of law enforcement is to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) stated.
Expecting a few hundred to over a thousand participants, no permits were issued by the city for the June 4th events, scheduled for downtown Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, City Hall, and Chapman Square. PPB said they expected all rally and protest participants to remain on the sidewalks or in city parks, and advised drivers to plan for possible traffic disruptions in the area.
Constant Law Enforcement Presence Keeps Crowd in Check
In response to online threats made by multiple groups prior to the event, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) partnered with the following agencies to keep the peace:
- Oregon State Police
- Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office
- Federal Protective Service
- Department of Homeland Security
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- United States Attorney’s Office
- Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
- Portland Fire & Rescue
It is hard to imagine a better place for Portland city demonstrations than Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, a federal property managed by the U.S. General Services Administration, with the Federal Protective Service as the lead enforcement agency for the property. Demonstrators in that area are required to follow specific conduct rules at the city, state, and federal levels.
To keep protesters out of the streets, police stretched yellow crime scene tape along sidewalks adjacent to the streets, and officers outfitted in riot gear maintained a constant presence to keep the crowd in check. Although 14 arrests were made, no serious violence occurred.
November Protesters Spill onto Bridges and Freeway
In contrast, more than 200 protesters blocked traffic in both directions on Interstate 5 in Portland for four hours during the November 10, 2016 post-Presidential election demonstrations, which extended for several days. One woman was struck by a vehicle that tried to make it through the human barrier on Interstate 5, and a protester was shot in an apparent argument over blocking traffic on the Morrison Bridge during a protest.
“Pedestrians walking on the freeway is illegal and extremely dangerous to all road users,” Portland police said.
To prevent further incidents, the state Department of Transportation (ODOT) briefly shut down Interstate 5
Despite well-intentioned plans to reduce the number of fatalities on Portland streets, 2016 saw an uptick in traffic fatalities compared with 2015. Although 2015 was the deadliest year to be on Oregon roads since 2008, in Portland, 2016 outpaced the preceding year with 44 traffic fatalities compared with 37 in 2015. The majority of these fatalities are taking place in the Southeast Division, where several streets are designated as “high crash corridors.”
In 2015, 8 of the crashes that led to 13 fatalities that occurred as early as April occurred in East Portland neighborhoods. Just last year, 5 were killed in crashes on the outer Southeast Division. As a response to the high rate of serious injury accidents and death, the Portland City Council has passed an emergency measure to reduce the speed limit in this area.
What is going on? Isn’t Vision Zero supposedly correcting all our traffic issues?
An initiative like Vision Zero, adopted in 2015, is a massive scheme to eliminate traffic incidents by adjusting the design and infrastructure of our roads to accommodate everyone who uses them. This is achieved through education, increased awareness of issues, and redesigning the entire transportation system so that it will work equally well for motorists to pedestrians, and everyone in between. Vision Zero is a plan to improve Portland streets by 2025, and it can be difficult to notice immediate improvements.
Since it was adopted in 2015, there are more protected bike lanes throughout the city helping bike commuters enjoy a more secure commute throughout the city. In addition, speed has been singled out as an important focus area (along with impairment, disobeying traffic laws, and road design), as it is a huge contributing factor for over 30% of traffic fatalities. Safe speeds that take all users of transport into account are a big part of the Vision Zero initiative. To encourage safe driving, speed limits are being reconsidered, and speed cameras are being introduced to High Crash Network streets.
Targeting Speed in SE Portland
In Southeast Portland, the City Council rushed to reduce the speed limit from 82nd Avenue to the Gresham border at 174th to 30 MPH as a response to the high rate of people killed on these
If you’re shopping around for a used car, you are probably searching for one that has a clean title. Yet if you search online your eyes may be drawn to seemingly perfect vehicles — with incredibly attractive prices and low mileage — only later to find out that their title states “Salvage.” You might get annoyed to find several options you’ve considered are marked with the vehicular equivalent of the scarlet letter and you may wonder if a salvage title is really all that bad. Well, is it?
What is a Salvage Car?
The general consensus of salvage cars is that they have been involved in serious accidents and are therefore, unreliable. This is not a bad assumption, but it doesn’t paint the full picture. Salvage cars are vehicles whose titles show they have been deemed a total loss by the insurer. Usually, these cars have been severely damaged.
In Oregon, a salvage title can be given to any car that would cost an insurance company to pay at least 80% of the car’s market value at the time it was damaged (or stolen) to repair or replace it. That’s right, on rare occasions salvage cars don’t have a mark on them, they were just found through unfortunate circumstances. In addition, abandoned vehicles worth less than $500 are also also given salvage titles.
Is it Worth the Risk?
Salvage cars typically sell at 5% to 10% below market value, yet they are usually accompanied by a hoard of obstacles involving insurance and financing, and quality and safety.
After a car is considered totaled it faces two possibilities: a salvage certificate that prevents it from being registered, driven, or sold as-is, or it is rebuilt and remarketed as a salvage car. The first group of vehicles end up at auctions for car rebuilders or junk yards. The salvage cars that make it on the market are those that have been rebuilt and have passed inspections, which vary from state to state. These cars are issued a title that indicates they are salvage vehicles.
The functionality and safety of these cars is so unpredictable that it is generally recommended to avoid salvage titles whenever possible. The “savings” generally do not outweigh the drawbacks of owning such a car. If you are tempted