A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Fatal curve well marked by signs

Written September 25th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
First, there's this warning about a speed zone change coming up.

First, there’s this warning about a speed-zone change coming up.

The district attorney’s evaluation of the Feb. 17 car crash that killed an Albany bicyclist made it sound as though speeding around that corner on Oakville Road was routine. If it is, it’s in spite of the signs on the road.

The evaluation by a Lane County assistant DA (see the preceding story) has a section headed “traffic conditions (standard of care of reasonable person/community standard).” It says a sheriff’s detective “indicated” that during the crash investigation on Feb 17, “vehicles were traveling faster than 45 miles per hour, and even had to go into the oncoming lane to stop from hitting the cars already stopped due to the investigation.” And again on May 19, during an on-scene review of roadway evidence, even with police present, “traffic continued to come around the corner very fast.”

It’s not clear what that had to do with anything. In the actual crash, the crucial factors seemed to be that the 24-year-old driver said she had her car on cruise control set at 60 mph and found herself unable, perhaps because of a mechanical malfunction, to turn it off or to activate the brakes. The report does not go into why anyone would use cruise control on a county road with many residential and farm driveways, let alone set it at 5 mph above the speed limit.

In any case, Oakville Road is amply marked to warn drivers to reduce speed well ahead of the right-hand corner near the Albany city limits where the road becomes Queen Avenue. First there’s the warning that a 40 mph zone is coming up. Then, well ahead of the curve, there’s an advisory sign suggesting 30 mph as a safe speed around the turn. We’ve all learned that those advisory signs often understate the safe speed by about 10 mph. Maybe that’s why most drivers take that corner faster, as the report says. But they don’t crash. (hh)

And then there's this one well ahead of the curve itself.

And then there’s this additional advice well ahead of the curve itself.

6 responses to “Fatal curve well marked by signs”

  1. James Carrick says:

    I find this case disturbing because it serves as an example that as drivers, we are NOT responsible for all of our actions when we should be…and were taught, at least when I was learning to drive. The driver in this case admitted to driving five over the limit (as you made clear) and she absolutely “failed to maintain full control of her vehicle” no matter what the reason, and that goes against Oregon’s basic rule (I assume that is still in place) that says a driver must ALWAYS operate their vehicle at a speed not to exceed what is appropriate for the conditions. If it is slick or icy, that means if you drive 55 when the conditions only allow for safe operation at 25 mph, then that overrides any posted speed. That’s just an example.

    I feel bad for this driver also, and am not sure time behind bars would be helpful in this case either. But perhaps she should not be driving until she can demonstrate she understands the responsibilities of being a driver, which we should all remember is not a RIGHT….it is a PRIVILEGE and one that can (and should) be withdrawn by the state in this circumstance. Just because it may not rise to the level of a criminal act, does it mean there should be no further consequences for what did happen. She alone is responsible for that bicyclist’s death.

    Get this driver off the road. Her acts of negligence are many in just this instance. Do we really need for her to screw up again before we figure this out?

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    In any case, the cruise control should have been disengaged AS SOON AS the 40 MPH sign came into view. Failure to do so seems to be negligent. More so when you add the 5 MPH speed over the limit.
    I simply don’t see how this driver isn’t charged with ANYTHING!
    There had to be a violation of the basic speed rule at a minimum.
    One of the less severe manslaughter charges seems appropriate.
    A message needs to be sent that you can’t get away driving stupid.

    I see a big lawsuit toward the person that “unsalvaged” the car, if they can be found.

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Well, interesting to see you were appointed both judge and jury in this case James.

    Maybe you should show a little reticence given the information presented of the DA and deputies who investigated, before you issue a conviction.

    • James Carrick says:

      Nobody appointed me anything. I issued MY opinion. All you’ve done is take a shot at it. You seem to be arguing that she maintained control of her vehicle. The results contradict that and resulted in the death of a person whose only mistake was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Additionally, you seem to be excusing her role in what happened. I’ve learned that most “accidents” are the result of someone making a mistake, innocently made or not. You seem to be the type that can find an excuse for anything, rather than responsibility. In your case, I’m not surprised.

      If I’d said today’s weather was nice, you’d likely find fault with that. If you have an opinion that differs from mine? Fine…STATE it and back it up with your reasoning, just like I did. Otherwise…….???? I wonder what you’d be thinking had it been one of your family that was killed in this accident?

  4. Jim Engel says:

    Mr Kapaun, how would you justify a lawsuit against whom ever “unsalvaged” the car? I don’t think they were at the wheel at the time of this terrible accident. I drive a great “unsalvage” ’96 Toyota 4-WD pickup. It’s my responsiblity to drive it properly…. JE


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