If you want to put your finger on the pulse of car culture; observe traffic court.

The light was yellow for 2.7 seconds. I didn’t have time to stop in 2.7 seconds. So I went forward because I was worried about being cited for impeding traffic.
Actual testimony from a defendant.


There was so much traffic. The light was hard to see. I was worried about what the people behind me would do so I went through the light. I didn’t want to block the intersection.
Actual testimony from a defendant.


My van was loaded down with bricks. I must have had like a ton of weight back there. The road was really slick from all the rain and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop in time. So I went through the light.
Actual testimony from a defendant.

The motorcycle cop who cited all three of these defendants had a helmet cam. He presented the video evidence to the court.

One of these defendants had their traffic ticket dismissed. The other two did not.

Traffic Lights

§ 811.260¹

Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices

(4) Steady circular yellow signal. A driver facing a steady circular yellow signal light is thereby warned that the related right of way is being terminated and that a red or flashing red light will be shown immediately. A driver facing the light shall stop at a clearly marked stop line…

(7) Steady circular red signal. A driver facing a steady circular red signal light alone shall stop at a clearly marked stop line…

The driver of a vehicle is required to keep their vehicle under control at all times. They are required to be on the lookout for other road users who may be in their path of travel.

As I sat and listened to the drivers giving their excuses as to why they failed to head the traffic control light, a theme began to appear.

  1. I was distracted.
  2. I didn’t have my vehicle under control.
  3. I was worried about the people behind me.
  4. I couldn’t stop in time.

All of the defendants excuses appeared to be valid in their minds. None of these excuses took into consideration anyone else who may have been using Oregon’s public right of ways. Namely pedestrians but also cyclists.

Speed Laws

§ 811.100¹

Violation of basic speed rule
(1) A person commits the offense of violating the basic speed rule if the person drives a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to all of the following:
(a) The traffic.
(b) The surface and width of the highway.
(c) The hazard at intersections.
(d) Weather.
(e) Visibility.
(f) Any other conditions then existing.

If you can’t keep your vehicle under control; you are going too fast.

If you can’t safely stop at the yellow; you are going too fast.

If you can’t safely stop at the red; you are going too fast.

If the speed limit is posted at 35 mph but you can’t safely drive 35 mph then by law you are required to slow down.

Safety Zones

§ 811.030¹

Driving through safety zone
(1) The driver of a vehicle commits the offense of driving through a safety zone if the driver at any time drives through or within any area or space officially set apart within a roadway for the exclusive use of pedestrians and which is protected or is so marked or indicated by adequate signs as to be plainly visible at all times while set apart as a safety zone.
In the video, which the officer showed to the court, each of these drivers went through a safety zone. Their testimony indicated their inability to ascertain if there was a pedestrian present at the time they committed their violations.
While no one was injured, this time. It is a clear indicator that motorists are not educated about the rights of pedestrians. Nor are they educated about their duties as a motorist to be on the lookout for pedestrians or cyclists.
A glaringly obvious example of this is through TriMetsShow them your shine.” ad campaign. Seeing these ads on display throughout Portland heats my blood to a simmering boil.
Part pedestrian and part cyclist. It is clear that the ad is placing the onus on the vulnerable road user to be seen. A subversive form of propaganda and victim blaming.

Oregon’s roads are first come, first served, and duty of care.

§ 801.440¹
Right of way
Right of way means the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other. [1983 c.338 §81]

Two of the defendants were found guilty.

One of the defendants was able to get his ticket dismissed. The dismissal was due to a lack of evidence. The evidence was based on the question of whether the yellow light was timed correctly and the vantage point of the officers video did not reveal the defendants traffic control signal.

All in all it was very edifying and I highly recommend it for all pedestrian and cycling advocates.

In all things, remember this, running a red light is illegal. The reason it is illegal is because it isn’t safe. It isn’t safe for you and it isn’t safe for any of the road users around you. Keep your vehicle under control and keep the safety of other road users in mind. Do not worry about what the people behind you are going to do. The person behind you is required to show you courtesy and safety by keeping their vehicle under control.






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