Does Oregon Need a Vehicular Homicide Law?

Yesterday’s O reports that the motorists involved in two incidents that resulted in the deaths of three cyclists will NOT face criminal charges.

In Oregon, killing someone through negligent operation of your car is not a crime. Unlike the wildly progressive State of Idaho, Oregon does not have a Vehicular Homicide statute.

A job for the next session of the Legislature?

Can we have safe roads if we don’t hold vehicle operators responsible for their actions? [Yes, this should include cyclists who harm pedestrians or other cyclists.]

6 responses to “Does Oregon Need a Vehicular Homicide Law?”

  1. Absolutely. Drivers (of both cars and bikes, or any other type of vehicle) need to be held completely accountable for their negligence. If that’s not a responsibility that a person is willing to bear, they shouldn’t be operating said vehicle. End of story.

    What if we were talking about guns? Say those weapons were being used in a place where they could legally be fired (I don’t know where that might be), but that the shooter decided to fire when he couldn’t see because of sun being in his eyes, and killed someone. Or that he simply suffered from “momentary inattention” and killed someone. In either of those cases, would anyone say it was just an “intersection of events that just end in tragedy,” as the officer quoted in the story does? Of course not, so why is that the case here?

    Cars can kill. Bikes can kill. Heck, razor scooters can probably kill too. There’s no such thing as an “honest mistake” when operating a device that is capable of killing. Peoples lives cannot be considered acceptable collateral damage for the cause of someone going to the grocery store.

  2. I am just amazed that here in Oregon a driver can ride while not able to see the road ahead, he may not know if anyone is coming the opposite way, he can turn left into traffic, kill a cyclist or a pedestrian, and pay a $242 fine. Where is the personal responsibility?

    We need a vehicular homicide law, and a 3 foot passing rule, to help make our roads safer for all users. And better education for car drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists, on sharing the road safely. And we should start contacting our legislators and candidates in the November elections to begin asking for those changes to be implemented in the next session. We need to learn a lesson from the three deaths in bike-car collisions in Washington County in the past few month, and work on legislation that will make those tragic events rare.

    John Napolitano – Bike commuter and Oregon Senate candidate

  3. I agree that we need a vehicular homicide law. The victims’ families can also hold the perps accountable via a civil lawsuit (wrongful death maybe?). I hope the media (and this blog) will report on any such legal actions regarding these terrible incidents.

  4. Here’s something I don’t understand. When Anthony Troy Saunders killed Chris Burris on MLK & Wygant September 2005, he was charged with second degree manslaughter, and is still in jail awaiting trial. What’s the difference here?

    Saunders left the scene and was caught the next day, so that’s a separate, hit-and-run charge, but that shouldn’t affect whether or not his actions constitute manslaughter, right? Since they didn’t pick him up until more than 24 hours later, they don’t have a DUI case, just like in the Washington County cases.

    The driver in the Darrel and Sheryl McDaniel deaths “was going about 40 mph in a 55-mph zone, did not have a cell phone in her car and was not impaired by alcohol or drugs. She had no criminal history and had never received a traffic ticket.” (The O article) Except that she killed a couple of people, she sounds like a model citizen.

    I’ll try to be sympathetic. I’m sure that driver is traumatized by what happened, too. Who among us hasn’t made a driving mistake that could, in different circumstances, have resulted in something terrible?

  5. We don’t need MORE laws or statutes. We need to enforce what is there. The idea of adding more laws to draw focus to a problem is stupid. It merely draws attention for a while and then lawyers go and circumvent the things again.

    On that same note, accidents do happen, hell everyone drives and are we charging them with causing the Iraq war which IS killing hundreds, thousands, of people? So one has to be very careful what they wish for.

    As for the 3ft passing rule? wtf is that crap? How about just getting some serious licensing restrictions going on… and some REAL training on how to operate motor vehicles. I get sick and tired of people saying, “Let’s pass a law, that’ll fix it” when the problem is that people aren’t following the laws to begin with, the primary reason being they usually have a horrendous lack of training. In the field of “motor vehicle use” this is a massive gap.

  6. OMG! I thought you people were civilized by now! You can actually kill each other with your cars and it is all OK with the law. Wow.

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