These Three New Laws Will Save Lives in Oregon

While the final transportation funding package bill did not include the Vision Zero approach advocated by The Street Trust and our partners, let’s take the time to celebrate the victories we’ve made for traffic safety this legislative session.

This year, the Oregon legislature enacted three new laws to protect cyclists and pedestrians from dangerous driving: H.B. 2409, which aims to deter speeding through the use of red light cameras, H.B. 2682, which allows Portland officials to set lower speed limits in residential neighborhoods, and H.B. 2597, which expands the definition of distracted driving to further discourage drivers from engaging in risky and potentially deadly behavior on the road.

The Street Trust supported these bills as part of our commitment to Vision Zero and worked closely with partners like Families for Safe Streets, Oregon Walks, and the City of Portland to provide testimony and inform the debate in the legislature. The passage of these three bills is a clear victory in our work of eliminating preventable road deaths and injuries, and the direct result of advocates’ and community members’ tireless work on road safety in Oregon.

H.B. 2409: Speeding Enforcement

H.B 2409 gives cities the authority to issue citations to speeders identified by the use of red light cameras, establishing an additional deterrent against risky and potentially deadly road behavior. “Excessive speeding is one of the most dangerous challenges we face in making our streets safe,” said Gerik Kransky, The Street Trust’s policy director, in his testimony. “This bill will help address one portion of the challenge we face in reducing these tragedies by reducing speeding through enforcement.”

The bill was sponsored by Representatives Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), Andy Olson (D-Albany), and Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego), as well as Senators Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-NW Portland/Beaverton). It was adopted by both chambers with bipartisan support and is set to take effect 90 days following the end of the legislative session.

H.B. 2682: Local Speed Limits

H.B. 2682 gives the City of Portland authority to pass ordinances designating lower speed limits on some streets located in residential areas, reducing risks for those walking or biking in proximity. This new law is a step in the right direction in that it will help save lives by making some streets of Portland safer for pedestrians and cyclists to use – however, the legislation exempts arterial highways, which leaves many areas of the city unable to adopt these lower speed limits.

“Speed kills,” said Families for Safe Streets, who commended Representative Rob Nosse (D-Portland) for introducing the bill while acknowledging that it “would not affect many of the streets where our loved ones lost their lives as most were killed on streets designated as arterials.”

After passing the House nearly unanimously, the bill was adopted by the Senate in a 18-10 vote, mostly along party lines: Senator Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), who sponsored the Senate version, cast the sole Republican vote in support of the bill. The law will take effect on January 1, 2018.

H.B. 2597: Distracted Driving

H.B. 2597 renames the offense of “operating a motor vehicle while using mobile communication device” to “driving motor vehicle while using mobile electronic device,” expanding the state’s definition of distracted driving to include other activities such as driving while watching a video on a mobile device. “We know that distracted driving is playing a role in traffic crashes in Oregon,” Gerik Kransky explained, “and people walking and biking are the most at risk from the resulting crashes.”

By proactively addressing the epidemic of distracted driving, this law helps reduce the number of road fatalities and serious injuries in Oregon – another victory for road safety advocates and communities throughout the state.

The bill was sponsored by Representatives Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego) along with Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland). On June 30, the Oregon House approved the final text of the legislation, which is now headed to the desk of Governor Kate Brown.

Where we go from here

These new laws represent significant victories for the people of Oregon, who are now better protected against dangerous road behavior which can result in death or injury. Without a doubt, these laws will save lives. While other legislative proposals merit their place in the spotlight, we should take the time to celebrate these victories and the hard work which made them possible.

As advocates committed to Vision Zero, which is the goal of achieving zero serious injuries and fatalities on our roads, The Street Trust acknowledges that the transportation package proposed in the legislature did not go far enough to address critical safety issues pertaining to speeding enforcement and road safety. The Street Trust and our partner organizations are committed to building on this momentum and keeping up the fight for safe and accessible streets which every Oregonian can enjoy.

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