Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Stepping Up To The Plate

June 12, 2014
The 1991 Columbia Little League Giants (your's truly standing in the back with glasses and no hat)

The 1991 Columbia Little League Giants
(your’s truly standing in the back with glasses and no hat)

I was 10 or 11 years old when I stepped from the on-deck circle and looked up the third baseline to get the sign from coach. I hated coming to the plate in these situations. This time was even worse. This time we were down by a run. It was the last inning. The tying run stood on third base. I certainly wasn’t the strongest batter on the team, one might even say I was one of the weaker ones. Coach knew this. Despite my weakness swinging the bat, I was good at laying down a bunt. Coach knew this too. My heart pounded into my throat when I received his sign. Hopeful I had misunderstood, I kept looking, waiting for clarification. Again it came. Coach called the suicide squeeze.

I knew that as soon as the opposing pitcher began his windup, my teammate would sprint from third base toward home plate. He’d be halfway down the baseline when the ball reached the plate. That’s the suicide part. If I don’t do my part, he’s a goner. My part? Square my shoulders, level my bat, make contact with the ball, and run toward first base. No matter what. If everything went as planned, my teammate would cross home plate before the third baseman or the pitcher could retrieve my bunted ball and make the out. That’s the plan anyway.

Nervously, I entered the batter’s box. My knuckles white with anxious courage. I could hear my heart beat in my ears. From the corner of my eye, I saw my teammate begin his trusting sprint toward me. The ball left the pitchers hand. It was time-the moment the game was riding on. Everything I had learned depended on this moment. My team depended on me.

I squared my shoulders. I leveled my bat. Wait! I was in luck, the pitch was a ball! Low and outside! Relieved, I pulled back my bat, grateful I had escaped near certain embarrassment.

Before the catcher even caught the ball, I realized what I had done. I saw my teammate running toward home, a look of surprise and amazement on his face as he realized what I’d done. I had one job. Make contact with the ball. When the moment came, my youthful inexperience and inability to handle the pressure of the situation overcame my training and the expectations of everyone who depended on me. I stepped back from the batter’s box just in time to allow the catcher to easily tag my teammate for the second out of the inning.

A few strikes later, I walked back to the dugout. Frustrated and discouraged, I had struck out for the last out of the game. Game over. At least I went down swinging.

What does one of my childhood’s most shameful moments have to do with anything?

This week marks “the moment” in the lives of many of you high school seniors. After donning cap and gown, you will walk up to the batter’s box. You will step up to the plate with all your training and experience. You will take everything we taught you-everything you learned from parents, teachers, and classmates and you will give this suicide squeeze we call life your best effort. Your part?  Make contact-make those choices that will allow those around you, especially your friends, to safely reach their destination. Wherever that might be.

Along the way, you will face a bad pitch. A bottle of alcohol. A heavy accelerator pedal. A couple of out-of-town parents.

You will probably face several bad pitches and you will have to make the right decisions.

When bad pitches come, and they will come, remember your training. Remember what you’ve learned at school and what your parents taught you. You can handle bad pitches. Square your shoulders and make the safe decision. Make the decisions-the decisions that help your friends reach their destination safely.

If you stumble, if you make a bad choice, if you fall, fix it. Get up, step up to the plate, stand tall and fix it. Make the better choice. You have your whole lives ahead of you. Make the choices that will keep your game going. Be the player your teachers and parents taught you to become.

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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


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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.

Vancouver: Have You Seen This White Toyota Tundra

January 20, 2014

vancouver pedestrian fatal 011914_1390198478183_5309412_ver1.0_640_480Who: The driver of a white older model Toyota Tundra and the driver of a separate black truck that hit three pedestrians.

What: Front end damage caused by hitting three pedestrians.

Where: The corner of NE 72nd Ave. and Vancouver Mall Driver.

When: January 19, 2014, at about 8:00 p.m.

Why: Because, after hitting at least three pedestrians, the drivers of both trucks fled the scene.

Last night the Vancouver Police Department issued the following Press Release:

VANCOUVER POLICE INVESTIGATING FATALITY HIT AND RUN COLLISION

News Release from Vancouver Police Dept.
Posted on FlashAlert: January 19th, 2014 9:41 PM
On January 19, 2014 at approximately 8:00 p.m. Vancouver Police responded to a hit and run collision at NE 72nd Avenue/NE Vancouver Mall Drive. According to witnesses, four pedestrians were walking northbound on NE 72nd in the crosswalk when a pickup heading southbound on NE 72nd Avenue turned eastbound at a high rate of speed onto NE Vancouver Mall Drive and hit three of the pedestrians in the crosswalk. One of the pedestrians is deceased and two others were transported to an area hospital, one with life-threatening injuries and the other with less serious injuries. The fourth pedestrian, a child, was not hit or injured.

The suspect vehicle is a white older Toyota, possibly a Tundra, with front end damage that will have some missing grill features. Police are also actively looking for black pickup that also left the scene and may have struck one or more of the victims as well.

The Vancouver Police Department Traffic Unit is investigating and anyone with information on this collision, or that was a witness to the collision, is asked to call 911 or the Vancouver Police Tip Line at (360) 487-7399.

This literally occurred within miles of my house, within blocks of my children’s school, and within feet of many of my closest friends homes.  As I read the Press Release, it hit me too close to home. This could have happened to my family, or my friends. Thankfully it was not, but it did happen to someone’s family. It did happen to someone’s friends. You probably have not seen either truck, but maybe your friends or family have. Take a moment to share this post. Let’s find this guy (or girl) and see that he (or she) gets the justice deserving of such horrible acts.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Drink and Drive

October 1, 2013

Dont-Drink-DriveEach month I author a safety column in the Vancouver Family Magazine. Vancouver Family Magazine is a locally produced publication who’s mission is “to strengthen a sense of community by providing Clark County families with comprehensive and locally based resources and information regarding parenting, education, news, community events and personalities, recreation, and more.” A couple of weeks ago, I submitted my contribution to the October issue, entitled “One Drunk Driver“.

In the column I shared recent statistics about those killed as a result of drunk driving. I won’t reiterate those numbers here, (read the article in Vancouver Family Magazine if you’re interested) but will repeat only that in 2011, drunk drivers killed 1,612 friends and family members–passengers inside the drunk’s own car.

That was two weeks ago. This last weekend, there was a single car crash that seems directly related to drunk driving. Sunday evening, around 8:30 p.m., Kenneth Jones was driving east from Vancouver toward Camas when his “vehicle left the roadway about a mile west of the 164th Avenue exit…went down an embankment, hit several large rocks and overturned, landing on its top.” The passenger in his car, Daniel Alexander of Vancouver, was pronounced dead at the scene.

How tragic.

How unfortunate.

How senseless.

Having lost a loved one in a motor vehicle crash myself, the loss is agonizing and forever. I feel for Mr. Alexander’s family and understand the grief and pain they are surely trying to deal with right now.  Whatever struggles and demons Mr. Jones may have endured before Sunday night, he must now add the guilt associated with choosing to drive while intoxicated and thereby taking the life of his friend or family member. I do not have the imagination necessary to calculate the weight of that burden.

As I stated in an earlier post, these crashes are not accidents. They are the final and permanent result of an irrational choice to break rules designed to keep everybody safe.  Please, please, please don’t drink and drive.

You’re Having Papa Murphy’s Pizza for Dinner Tomorrow Night

July 23, 2013

I bet you didn’t know you were going to eat Papa Murphy’s pizza for dinner tomorrow night.  Read below to find out why.

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If you live anywhere near Battle Ground, Washington,  you have probably heard of the nightmare that is Justin Carey’s reality.  On June 10, 2013, like so many days before, 16-year old Justin woke up, got ready, and went to catch the bus for school.  As he waited, Shaun Johnson, for reasons yet unknown, recklessly drove her Nissan Maxima directly into Justin.  The force of the collision thrust Justin over 150 through the air before coming to a rest in nearby bushes.  He laid on the ground, dying and unable to move, for over an hour and a half while officers and deputies investigated the scene and interviewed with Ms. Johnson.  He was too weak to get their attention, and he was becoming weaker by the minute as blood seeped from his body.  It was only when a tow truck operator was preparing Ms. Johnson’s vehicle to be towed from the scene that Justin’s faint pleas for help were heard and his prayers answered.

Emergency responders arrived quickly and rushed Justin to the hospital.  The impact broke both of Justin’s femur bones and severed both of his femoral arteries.  Ultimately, doctors had no choice but to remove the lower part of his right leg.  Miraculously, after more than a month in the hospital, Justin is now home and adapting to  life without his leg.   He’s acknowledged that his career goal of being in the military no longer seems possible but he hopes “something good is going to come out of it.”

As a personal injury attorney, I have a small understanding of the impact this will have on Justin’s life for years to come.  I’ve followed Justin’s story and am amazed by the tremendous show of support here in Southwest Washington.  Home Depot for example offered time and materials to build a wheelchair ramp at Justin’s house.  Local restaurant, South Pacific Cafe and Lounge hosted a fundraiser to pay for a prosthetic leg.  Community donations have poured in to help the family.  These undoubtedly will help Justin and his family deal with his mounting medical bills.  I know enough however to know that the donations will cover just the tip of the medical-bill iceberg that has accrued.  Justin’s medical bills undoubtedly total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Papa Murphy’s CEO, Ken Calwell, has graciously offered to donate to Justin’s medical fund 20 percent of the proceeds from all pizzas sold in Clark County between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday July 24, 2013.  We all need to eat.  It’s too hot to cook anyway.  What better way to show our support for Justin and his family (and Papa Murphy’s) by having pizza tomorrow night.  Share this opportunity with your friends, and invite them to share it with their friends.  Let’s pull together as a community and show our support for Justin and his family.

Who Here Has Heard of “Bike Clark County”?

July 16, 2013

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Riding the 2013 Seattle to Portland, or “STP”, this past weekend was one of the most physically and mentally rewarding experiences of my life. It is something I will always remember. During the ride, I realized how much cycling has given to me over the years–good health, physical freedom, release from stress, and personal accomplishment. Even while suffering through those last four miles through Portland, I felt it was time for me to start giving back to the biking community that had given me so much. But where? With who? As I pedaled through the pain, I realized I could not think of a single organization in Vancouver or Clark County committed to biking education and advocacy. Sure, such organizations exist in Portland, Oregon and in Seattle, Washington, but I wanted something smaller. Something local. Something Vancouver.

After my body recovered from the ride and in only a few minutes of internet browsing, I came across a 2011 newspaper article talking about a Vancouver firefighter by the name of Eric Giacchino.  He felt the same bike-safety void in Vancouver as I was feeling. He, however, took the initiative to do something about it. After much work from himself and other volunteers, he created “Bike Clark County“.

Bike Clark County

The organization’s mission:

Through community partnerships and the effort of volunteers, we promote bicycle access, education, safety and the enjoyment of cycling to the children and adults of SW Washington. In simple terms, that translates to getting more people out riding bikes.

Despite my years of riding, how had I not heard about these folks before?  I decided to do my part to spread the word by writing a blog post and sharing about Bike Clark County with my friends and followers.  Bike Clark County offers education classes to Vancouver classrooms, 1-hour commuter workshops to local workplaces, and provide training on bicycle repair; they’ll show you how to do it.  The Board of Directors, made up entirely of community volunteers, includes fire fighters, a County Transportation Planner, a Chief Technology Officer, and a local business owner–all local people interested in making their community a safer place.  All Bike Clark County staff members are also volunteers. The organization supports local community rides like the Gordon Patterson Memorial Bike Ride and Pedalpalooza. All programs are free and made possible through community donations.  They also provide cycling advocacy efforts directed toward helping to make Clark County a bike friendly and safe place to ride and commute.

If you enjoy cycling (or if you get annoyed by irresponsible and reckless cyclists as much as I do), get involved.  Consider volunteering or asking your child’s school or your place of employment to host Bike Clark County Volunteers as they impart their biking wisdom.  It’s only through constant and ongoing education that we can make our communities safer for our children and for all of us cyclists on the roadway.

I love the message on their home page: “Remember the feeling of freedom when you got on your bike? – It never left.”  This message sits next to a picture of a young boy, perhaps 7 years old, who is riding a bike adorned with a hand-drawn face (you have to see it to appreciate it).  The boy reminds me of my eight year old son who loves riding his bike through the neighborhood.  I hope he will forever to do so thanks, in part, to the efforts of Bike Clark County.

Thank you Eric Giacchino for your commitment to make our roads safer and for going the extra mile to help our community in all aspects of your life. You are an example of dedicated service and the pinnacle of what  it means to be from the ‘couve.

Recreate on the Water But Do it Safely!

July 8, 2013

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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.

Last Day of School Means More Kids Outside “Playing”

June 18, 2013

260562_511552342225126_250326176_nRock legend “Alice Cooper” may have coined the lyrics, but today kids all over Vancouver are singing them:

No more pencils;
No more books;
No more teachers dirty looks!

If you live in the Vancouver School District, today marks the long-awaited first day of summer. No longer will our children spend hours in the classroom and at the kitchen table working on homework or studies. Gone are the days of writing and arithmetic.  With this newly rediscovered freedom comes balls, and bikes, and games.  Unfortunately, this time also represents the most dangerous period for our children.

It goes without mentioning that kids don’t pay attention. Despite our constant and recurrent pleas that our little ones not run into the road before looking both ways, they will.  They do. Despite our many reminders, they will ride their bikes into the street before looking for cars. These types of occurrences happen much more often  than we care to admit and they create a dangerous, even life-threatening situation for our children.

With this in mind, we drivers must slow down.  We must pay attention.  We must be the driver we would want on the roadway if it was our children playing where they ought not to be playing in a way that they ought not to play.  SLOW DOWN!  and PAY ATTENTION!

As a father of three (almost four), I understand firsthand the fear I experience every time my kids play in the front yard. I know, despite my constant vigilance and admonishing, “kids will be kids” and they will dart, dash, run, ride into the roadway.  That’s what kids do. In their minds, they are invincible and don’t know what death is much less that it is them that could run into the road one minute and not wake up the next.

We drivers have to make up for their youthful shortcomings. We do this not only by slowing down, but by paying attention to the things outside of our car and not things inside of our car (cell phones, radio, makeup, lunch, etc.). We need to be ever cautious in neighborhoods, especially where children are present. We even don our Sherlock Holmes’ hat and use our deductive reasoning skills. Where we see one child, we can bet that he or she is playing with someone. Where we see a ball in the street, it is safe to assume a kid put it there and will soon be out to get it. Where we see a bicycle lying on the sidewalk, we can suppose that its rider is somewhere close by. Watch out for these kids. Let them enjoy their summer how summers were supposed to be enjoyed.

I shudder at the thought of something tragic happening to my children. Probably more concerning however, is the thought that my carelessness could forever take the life of someone’s Johnny or Sally. I just don’t know if I could cope with that guilt and remorse. Neither could you. Make safe our roads. Be safe out there and watch out for children.

 

 

Love you Joey

May 28, 2013

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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:

Red-Crayon-Fault

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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