Archive for the ‘Laws’ Category

Proposed Census Changes Dangerous to Area Cyclists

June 27, 2014

For years the U.S. Census Bureau has recorded and analyzed the way in which Americans commute to work. The Census Bureau is considering eliminating the biking and walking questions from the survey. Eliminating these questions would be unfortunate on many levels–but severely so to area cyclists.

Source: 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey results

Source: 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey results

Portland ranks among the highest in the nation for the percentage of workers who commute to work by bicycle. By percentage, Portland workers bike to work more than ten times more than workers in other parts of the country. Lawmakers here in Portland have used the data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau to petition and support biking infrastructure and biking safety plans. If the Census Bureau were to stop collecting the data, Portland lawmakers will not have the ability to identify areas in need and to seek funding appropriately.

So what?

The Alliance for Biking and Walking, a bike-advocacy group, has created a “Count Us” campaign. The campaign seeks to keep walking and biking data on the US Census. The time for feedback is quickly expiring–today. Click here, follow the instructions, and do your part to make walking and biking in Portland safer for all of us.


You Can’t Text 9-1-1 in Clark County….YET.

May 16, 2014

911Much has been circulating throughout the news and in social media about being able to text 9-1-1 from your cellular phone.  You’ve probably heard that you can now text 9-1-1 because yesterday, May 15, 2014, was the deadline for mobile carriers to be technologically ready to allow consumers to text 9-1-1 for emergencies.


Even though you may be able to text to 9-1-1, many government agencies are not yet prepared to receive the text messages.  This is the case with Clark County.  The Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) is currently working on equipment upgrades that will allow it to receive text messages here in Vancouver and the surrounding Clark County area.  They’re not there yet.  Currently, if you try to text 9-1-1 you will receive only a bounce-back reply from your carrier telling you that your text message was not received by a CRESA.

If you’re in an emergency, CRESCA suggests a voice call anyway–its better for the exchange of information and to allow a more efficient response time. That said, its important to know and understand that even if you’re in a situation where you’d prefer not to use your voice (I can think of many, but would rather not), a text message won’t do you any good and should not yet be relied upon as a method of calling for help or assistance.

Hopefully none of us (or our friends) will have to contact 9-1-1 anyway, but if we do, its important to be informed and to know and understand how to call for help in an emergency. Be safe.


Washington Cyclists are More Protected After Yesterday’s Supreme Court Ruling

January 31, 2014
Bollards installed near the I-205 bridge in May 2013, after a woman drove nearly two miles on the I-205 bike path

Bollards installed near the I-205 bridge in May 2013, after a motorist drove nearly two miles on the I-205 bike path

Many cyclists have faced the same danger that paralyzed cyclist Susan Camicia.  I know I have; countless times.  Susan was severely injured while bicycling along the bike trail on I-90.  As she approached an intersection, she had to veer to the left to avoid striking temporary fencing that had been installed by a construction contractor to prevent public access to a nearby construction site.  After navigating around the fencing, she looked up, just in time to see a wooden post that was erected to keep vehicles from entering the paved bike path.  Unfortunately she was unable to change her direction before striking the pole. She fell from her bike and as a result was rendered paraplegic. She brought a claim for injuries against the contractor who installed the fencing (for allowing the fencing to protrude onto the bike path) and the city (for allowing the dangerous condition to exist on the property).  The city responded that it was immune from liability under RCW 4.24.210–which provides immunity from liability for unintentional injuries to landowners who “allow members of the public to use [the land] for the purposes of outdoor recreation…without charging a fee of any kind therefor[e].”  Surprisingly, the trial court agreed with the city and granted summary judgment against Ms. Camicia.  On appeal, the Washington State Court of Appeals reversed the decision and held that the city was not entitled to summary judgment.  The city appealed.  The case made it all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.  Yesterday, in Susan Camicia v. Howard S. Wright Construction Co. and City of Mercer Island, the court issued a ruling that better protects Washington’s cyclists.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) originally built the I-90 bike trail in the mid-to-late 1980’s.  Like many other bike paths in Washington, small wooden posts were originally installed at intersections with city streets to prevent vehicles from entering the asphalt trail.

After a series of governmental studies in which both the Federal Highway Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation determined that the bike trail was “primarily for transportation and…an integral part of the local transportation system” and only “minimally and fairly insignificant[ly] used for recreational purposes, WSDOT determined the bike trail was not a public park or recreation area and later transferred the trail to the City of Mercer Island.  As a part of the sale, the contract stated: “It is understood and agreed that the…property is transferred for road/street purposes only, and no other use shall be made of said property without obtaining prior written approval of [WSDOT].”

Despite the above, and in response to Ms. Camicia’s injury claim, the City alleged that it “understood the trail to be primarily recreational in nature” and that recreation immunity follows even  if the land is used for “incidental recreational use.”  Distinguishing many cases relied upon by the city, the Supreme Court disagreed.  The court held:

To establish entitlement to recreational use immunity, the City must prove its portion of the I-90 trail is open to the public for outdoor recreation. Whether the City allowed the public to use the trail for purposes of outdoor recreation is a contested factual issue. Because the trier of fact [the jury] could find that the I-90 trail is open for the public purpose of transportation rather than recreational use, the Court of Appeals correctly held the City was not entitled to summary judgment in its favor.

Essentially, the Court precluded the blind application of recreational immunity unless the landowner (here the city) can prove the land was actually opened for recreational use and not transportation. I, like you, have ridden many times on trails in Vancouver (the Salmon Creek Trail, Padden Parkway Trail, and Burnt Bridge Creek Trail come to mind initially) and in Portland (the Springwater Trail and the Marine Drive Bike Path are fun), that have faced dangers (whether deteriorating asphalt, trail hazards, overgrown bushes and trees, or other unimaginables). Knowing that the cities who own these bike paths cannot simply hide behind the recreational immunity statute offers some level of protection–and assurance that they will keep these trails safer for our use.

As always, remember to be safe out there.

You can see more about Ms. Camicia and her story here (as well as her endorsement for “Outdoors for All”, an organization that provides recreational assistance for those with disabilities).

10 Commonly Misunderstood Rules of the Road

January 22, 2014

In high school, I missed just one question on my Utah State Driver’s Education written test. I still remember the question:

QUESTION:  When passing another vehicle, how many miles per hour can a driver exceed the posted speed limit?

a) 3 mph

b) 5 mph

c) 10 mph

d) None of the above

Looking back, nearly *cough* twenty years, I still cannot believe I answered “B.” But back then, as a 16 year-old high school student, the trickery was too much for me to resist—the answer just “sounded right.”

I have since realized that this same basic principle happens on our roads nearly every day. Many times we follow “a law” that is not actually “the law” and frequently doesn’t even resemble the law. We do this for the same reason I missed the question above; because it “sounds right” or because we “think” its right. Perhaps you are a more knowledgeable driver than I, but there are definitely some commonly misunderstood driving laws that we could all better understand. Many of these laws are state specific, so outside of Washington these rules may not apply:

  1. Cell Phone Use: By now you are aware that it is against Washington law to “send, read, or write a text message” while operating a moving vehicle. RCW 46.61.668(1). Fewer know that a person “does not send, read, or write a text message when he or she reads, selects, or enters a phone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purposes of making a phone call.” RCW 46.61.668(1). Remember, it is against Washington law to hold “a wireless communications device” to one’s ear while operating a motor vehicle. RCW 46.61.667. So to sum it all up, a driver can look at their phone, dial a number, and hold a conversation so long as the driver does not put the phone to his or her ear or send/read a text message.
  2. Four-Way Stops: I’m not sure how much of this is lack of knowledge, and how much is lack of execution, but this definitely seems to be misunderstood, or perhaps ignored. When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, “the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.” RCW 46.61.180.
  3. Stop Signs: Again, I think we all “know” this principle, but here it is good to actually know the specifics. Upon approaching a stop sign, a driver must come to a complete stop behind the “clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.” RCW 46.61.190. Additionally, after coming to a complete stop, the driver must proceed through the intersection “in a careful manner and at a reasonable rate of speed not to exceed twenty miles per hour.” RCW 47.36.110.
  4. Left Turns: This law answers the question unanswered by the “four way” stop law above—who has the right of way when two vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time from opposite directions. “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left…shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.” RCW 46.61.185.
  5. Emergency Vehicles:  Whenever an “emergency vehicle” is “making use of audible and visual signals” or when a “police vehicle” is “making use of an audible signal” every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and “shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.” RCW 46.61.210.
  6. Cross-walks Signals: Pedestrians facing a “WALK” or walking person symbol, may cross the crosswalk in the direction of the signal. Pedestrians facing a flashing “DON’T WALK” or hand symbol shall not enter the crosswalk. RCW 46.61.060.
  7. Yellow Lights: Washington law on this point is relatively unique. In many states, yellow either means “hurry up and stop” or it means “hurry up and go.” A yellow light in Washington means only that “the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection.” RCW 46.61.055(2). Essentially this means that a driver facing a yellow light “may proceed through intersection when he can do so before the yellow light turns red.” Brummett v. Cyr, 45 Wa.2d 904 (1960).
  8. U-Turns: In Washington, U-turns are allowed except where signs indicate they are not allowed. Still, U-turns are not allowed “unless such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.” Further, U-turns are not allowed where “such vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle approaching from either direction within five hundred feet.” RCW 46.61.295.
  9. Embracing Another While Driving: This is a fun one. It is “unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state when such person has in his or her embrace another person which prevents the free and unhampered operation of such vehicle.” RCW 46.61.665. It’s worth noting, that violating this rule is complete evidence of reckless driving.
  10. Slow Moving Vehicles: Even I learned something while writing this. So I will end, where I began, with passing a slower moving vehicle. First, “no person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced sped is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” RCW 46.61.425. However, a driver travelling behind another who is “driving at less than the legal maximum speed” down a road, with only one lane of traffic in each direction, “may exceed the speed limit…at only such a speed and for only such a distance as is necessary to complete the pass with a reasonable margin of safety.” RCW 46.61.425. When performing such a pass, the driver must return to his lane of travel as soon as practicable and before coming within two hundred feet of any approaching traffic. RCW 46.61.120.

The important thing to remember is to be safe on the roads; to drive in a manner that is respectable and courteous of other drivers and to pay attention to your surroundings. As my mom always told me, “just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Though the content of this post is entirely mine, it was first featured in Vancouver Family Magazine.  It is used here with permission.

Recreate on the Water But Do it Safely!

July 8, 2013


So between vacations and a busy work schedule I dropped the ball on my weekly blog post. I’m sorry. I spent the past week with friends and family in Salt Lake City, Utah and Bear Lake, Idaho. Where we had the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in several years—go boating with my family. It was great to get the old slalom ski out and cut the wake—even if not as aggressively as I was once able (just to be clear, that’s not me in the photo–that’s professional water skier Andy Mapple).

I was amazed at something I didn’t recall in years past. Namely, the other boats, wave runners, and Jet Ski’s that were following closely behind us in order to jump over the wake behind us. I noticed the same thing when my kids were being pulled behind the boat on a large inner tube. I couldn’t help but wonder what could happen if one of us fell into the water and the wave runner or Jet Ski couldn’t see or react in time. As if reading my mind, my father-in-law commented about how many people are ran over ever year in Utah by such carelessness.

This of course happens elsewhere too—not just in Utah. It happens in Washington. In fact, just a few years ago DK Ross was ran over by a motor boater while he kayaker on American Lake. He suffered serious brain damage, multiple broken bones, and an unimaginable skull fracture. His life and the life of his family will never be the same.

Tragedies such as these can be prevented by taking just a few simple precautions and paying extra attention while enjoying recreational water activities. Washington law prevents “operating a vessel in disregard of careful and prudent operation, or in disregard of careful and prudent rates of speed that are no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of traffic, size of the lake or body of water, freedom from obstruction to view ahead, effects of vessel wake, and so as not to unduly or unreasonably endanger life, limb, property or other rights of any person entitled to the use of such waters.”  RCW 79A.60.030. What does this mean?  Don’t drive your boat like a moron.

Washington law also has specific laws targeted at various water activities:

Specific to water skiing, Washington law requires:

  • There be at least two persons on the boat (an “operator” and an “observer”);
  • The water skier wear a personal floatation device;
  • That water skiing take place only between one hour prior to sunrise and one hour after sunset; or
  • No person to conduct himself or herself in a reckless manner that willfully or wantonly endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property.

RCW 79A.60.170.

Specific to the operation of “personal watercraft”, Washington law requires:

  • All persons aboard wear a personal floatation device;
  • The operator attach a “lanyard-type engine cutoff switch” to his or her person, clothing, or personal floatation device;
  • That the personal watercraft shall not be operated during “darkness”;
  • Operators be at least 14 years of age;
  • “A person shall not operate a personal watercraft in a reckless manner, including recklessly weaving through congested vessel traffic, recklessly jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to the vessel or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or recklessly swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision.”

RCW 79A.60.190.

In the end, if we can all follow a few common sense rules and watch out for other people on the lakes and rivers where we recreate, we can all have a more safe and enjoyable summer with many more to enjoy in the future.

It’s a Shame This Is Necessary

June 4, 2013

This week Oregon moved one step closer to joining many other states in effort to curb smoking in a car when children are present. Senate bill 444 passed the legislature and is now on the desk of Governor Kitzhaber, who has said he will sign it.  Summarizing, the bill will make smoking in a vehicle in which children are present a secondary offense–meaning the offender can only get cited if pulled over for another offense. The offender will be fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for all future offenses.

Shouldn’t this conduct be a no-brainer? The American Cancer Society wrote a good general article about second-hand smoke.  In it, they discuss the dangers caused by second-hand smoke, especially to children, and note that “Americans spend a great deal of time in cars, and if someone smokes there, the poisons can build up quickly. Again, this can be especially harmful to children.”  Shouldn’t parents care enough for their children not to expose them to such risks.  It has been how many years since we began to understand the dangers of second-hand smoke?  15? 20? However long, it is way too long for any among us to still be intentionally exposing our children to the dangers of second-hand smoke.  If a person chooses to smoke despite knowledge of the risks, that’s their business.  Go ahead, kill yourself. When someone does the same to kids, even their own kids, I’ve got a problem with that.

Although the bill passed the legislature, 15 fine men and women voted against the bill.  15! That’s absurd. Those voting against the bill voiced concerns of becoming the next “nanny state” and questioned the bill’s effectiveness. Nonsense. I tend to agree with Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, who voiced his disagreement with the nay-sayers. He reasoned the bill was a “nanny provision” not because it micro-manages the smokers, but because it protects children, just like nannies do. Clever.

In the end, I hate that we as a society are so careless, so selfish, and so inattentive to the dangers to which we expose others. I hate that our governments have to step in and govern behavior that, to me, seems nonsensical. Maybe we’ll reach a point when legislation such as this will no longer be necessary.  I doubt it.  After all, Oregon still makes it a crime to carry a child “on an external part of a motor vehicle.” It’s true.  Don’t do it.

Love you Joey

May 28, 2013


Last week my brother Joey came to visit with his girlfriend. We had a great time together hiking the Gorge, walking the beach (above), and exploring the Ape Caves. We enjoyed each other’s company and even talked to each other like adults after dinners. These are good memories that I will forever cherish and remember.

It wasn’t always like this between him and I. Before I went to law school, before I had kids, before I left Utah for the great Northwest, and before I got married, we tolerated each other growing up. We weren’t really close, much less friends, before he had kids, and before he served our country in Iraq (Happy Memorial Day buddy and here’s to you and SSGT James Cawley). In fact, growing up we  were downright enemies most of the time. I’m eternally grateful that changed.

I’m the big brother. Being the big brother comes with certain, shall we say, “responsibilities”. When we were younger, say 5 and 3 respectively, I had a devilish desire to get  him in trouble, on purpose, because it was fun. And boy was I good at it–or so I thought. One day I wrote “JOEY” in crayon on the closet door of our bedroom. This was sure to work. Why would I, Scott, write “JOEY”, if it was me, I’d write “SCOTT”? Only thing, in all my infinite wisdom, I failed to understand that because Joey was only three, and not yet able to write, I was destined to be discovered as the author of the scrawl.

She knew, of course She knew. How couldn’t She? She knew just as surely as this mom knew:


I, of course, was in trouble.  My cleverness and ingenuity got the best of me and this wasn’t the last time it did so.

It couldn’t have been a few months later. Back in those days, nobody really used child car seats or booster seats for their toddlers. Our mom was trying to teach my brother to keep his seat belt on while we were driving. When he took it off, he got in trouble. It only took witnessing this once or twice to ignite my older brother “responsibilities.” Slowly, cautiously, I reached across the back seat and unbuckled his seat belt. “Mom…Joey took his seat belt off again.” She pulled the car over, slapped his hand, buckled him up again, and continued down the road. This was brilliant, even better than my rookie crayon fiasco. Emboldened, I did it again. “Mom…Joey took his seat belt off again.”  With more consternation and determination, She pulled the car over, slapped his hand, buckled him up again, and continued down the road.  Giddy, I did it again. “Mom…Joey took his seat belt off again.” Dismayed, She pulled the car over, slapped his hand, buckled him up again, continued down the road, and adjusted her rear view mirror. Unaware, of the prying eyes watching me from the driver’s seat, I boldly did it again. “Mom…Joey took his seat belt off again.” Silence. Abhorrence. She couldn’t do anything, for if She did, she would have killed me. No doubt. Eventually she calmed. My punishment, for the next I can’t remember how long, was punishment for every bad thing Joey did. Looking back, this was absolutely appropriate and clever.

Today, children have car seats, and booster seats, and seat belts.  We have laws that require that such devices be used to keep our children safe. In Washington, the laws are clear and straight forward:

  • When “practical to do so”, children under 13 years of age MUST ride in the back seat positions in the vehicle (RCW 46.61.687(c));
  • Once a child turns 8 or reaches the height of 4′ 9″ he or she MAY use the vehicle safety belt system (RCW 46.61.687(a));
  • Until a child reaches the age of 8 or the height of 4′ 9″ he or she MUST be restrained in a child restraint system that “complies with standards of the US Department of Transportation” and is “secured in the vehicle in accordance with instructions of the vehicle manufacturer and the child restraint system manufacturer” (RCW 46.61.687(a));
  • Children should be kept in each restraint type (rear-facing car seat, forward-facing car seat, and booster seats), “for as long as possible before moving them up to the next type of seat.”

Bottom line, let’s keep our kids as safe as possible by properly restraining them in our vehicles. Gone are the days of holding a child in your arms while in a moving car–man I hope no one still does this.

Looking back, it’s a miracle my generation survived despite the lack of proper restraint systems. More miraculous, is that my brother survived despite my ill-conceived attempts to get him in trouble. I’m glad he did. We have a lot of good memories to make while raising our own kids, and some day, our grand kids. These generations of memories could have been lost in a moment because we weren’t properly restrained. I would never have been able to live with myself if my carelessness…I can’t even say it.

Keep your kids safe. Buckle them up.

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