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52 Years Later—USS Pueblo

USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of an extraordinary event.

The USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was captured by North Korean forces on January 23, 1968 and forcibly taken to Wanson Harbor.  The ship was on a surveillance mission in international waters off the country’s coast.

The ship seizure was without question the largest compromise of information concerning the cryptologic community collection, processing, and reporting operations and techniques in U.S. cryptologic history.

Speaking of surveillance, the USS Pueblo was equipped with the latest and most sophisticated signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection equipment available in the U.S. inventory, with a capability to intercept and record North Korean voice and other communications particularly in the ultra high frequency (UHF) and very high frequency (VHF) spectrums. It had the standard WLR-1 electronic intelligence intercept receiver used throughout the naval fleet and had positions set aside to intercept Soviet telemetry.  When captured, the ship had more than 500 documents or pieces of equipment, including 58 technical SIGINT instructions, 37 technical manuals, 33 communications intelligence (COMINT) technical reports and 126 collection requirements. The USS Pueblo had copies of about 8,000 messages containing SIGINT data transmitted over the fleet operational intelligence broadcast. The broadcasts carried large amounts of information on Southeast Asia and China and thus collectively revealed the effectiveness of the U.S. collection efforts. The USS Pueblo also used four cryptographic systems, associated keying materials, maintenance manuals, operating instructions, and the general communications-security publications necessary to support a cryptographic operation.

The cryptomachines and manuals the North Koreans seized from the USS Pueblo were soon passed to the Soviets.  These were identical to those heavily used by U.S. Naval commands worldwide.

The Soviet acquisition or windfall of U.S. cryptographic equipment from the USS Pueblo, as well as the acquisition of U.S. keying material for the same machines from John Walker (more on this topic in a later post) beginning in late December 1967 and later from Jerry Whitworth, gave the Soviets all they needed to read selected U.S. strategic and tactical encrypted communications.

Un-Classified NSA Cryptologic Assessment

The ship attack and seizure was a major propaganda coup for North Korea.

The USS Pueblo 83 officers and enlisted men along with two civilian oceanographers — whose presence was intended to reinforce the ship’s cover story —  were held (beaten daily, humiliated, and starved) for 11 months!  Petty Officer Duane Hodges, 21, of Creswell, Oregon, died during the seizure, when North Korea first attacked the USS Pueblo. Mr. Hodges was  presented with the Silver Star Medal (Posthumously).

The spy ship tragedy briefly hit the news cycle a couple years ago, but at the time it seemed the incident was largely lost on the public.  Why?

You may recall, that in 1968, the USS Pueblo attack was overshadowed by Vietnam and all the other drama in that chaotic year.  There were assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The riots that shook Washington, Chicago, Baltimore and other U.S. cities. Campus protests. Civil rights protests. Vietnam War protests. The Tet Offensive. The My Lai massacre. The rise of Richard Nixon and the retreat of Lyndon Johnson. There was the Black Power movement, “The White Album,” Andy Warhol, “Hair,” and Apollo 8.  It was an extraordinary year and the USS Pueblo fell through the cracks of the public consciousness because of everything else.

Sailor Belongings On Display At North Korea Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Initially newspapers ran profiles of the brave sailors captured by the evil North Korean Communists and the USS Pueblo was the main focus of national attention.  But, 7-days later, January 30, 1968, the Tet offensive exploded and the American public returned focus to Vietnam. Soon after, Walter Cronkite called for a Vietnam exit, a national debate flared up about the military’s request for more troops, and Johnson announced that largely because of Vietnam, he would not run for re-election. In the haze of Vietnam-related tumult, the USS Pueblo faded.

The U.S. military did take sweeping steps—many unpublicized—to prepare for a war with North Korea, but climatically they relented with a publicly repudiated written apology that freed the crew in December 1968.  After 335 days in captivity, and a written admission by the U.S. that the USS Pueblo had been spying, as well as an assurance the U.S. would not spy in the future — the men were sent to the Demilitarized Zone border with South Korea, and ordered to walk one-by-one across the “Bridge of No Return.”  Many of the men were crippled, malnourished and almost blind from the hideous torture they received.  After the last man had crossed the bridge, the U.S. verbally retracted all its admissions, apologies and assurances.

USS Pueblo Moored At Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

I need not detail the aftermath, but the crew fought for years to have their reputations restored and it wasn’t until 1989 that the U.S. government finally recognized the crew’s sacrifice, and granted them Prisoner of War medals.  The story of the crew suffering and what happened has largely gone under-reported. Hopefully this blog post illuminates the rallying cry to “Remember the Pueblo.”

Currently, the USS Pueblo remains a commissioned naval ship and property of the U.S. Navy held captive.  It is moored in the Potong River at Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.  It is being held as a trophy of war—a “tourist” attraction and propaganda piece for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime as part of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

In 2008, a U.S. Senate resolution declared the USS Pueblo as the first U.S. Navy ship to be “hijacked” by a foreign military in more than 150 years and proclaimed to show the world its resolve by getting the USS Pueblo back by whatever means.

A lawsuit in 2008 was brought by three members of the USS Pueblo crew, William Thomas Massie, Dunnie Richard Tuck and Donald Raymond McClarren, and Rose Bucher, wife of the Pueblo’s late commander, Lloyd Bucher.  The court awarded the three surviving crew members $16.75 million each, and Bucher’s estate $12.5 million for the abuse suffered during capture and the “physical and mental harm that (they) likely will continue to endure throughout the rest of their lives.”

In February 2018, a new lawsuit was filed in a federal court under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism for torture, hostage-taking, personal injury or death.  More than 100 crew members and relatives of the USS Pueblo joined the lawsuit.  North Korea has never responded, but plaintiffs could recover damages for relief under a $1.1 billion dollar fund established by the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act, which can be awarded to people who have “secured final judgments in a United States district court against a state sponsor of terrorism.”

In 2019, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (CO.) announced a new resolution calling on the North Korean government to return the USS Pueblo back to the United States.  The resolution also directs the clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit copies of the resolution to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of state.  It states the U.S. Navy “would welcome” its return as “a sign of good faith from the North Korean people to the American people.”

To the service members who served on the USS Pueblo, I thank you for your sacrifices and service!

The end of the Korean War and the subsequent Armistice Agreement of 1953 has not resolved any of the issues that divide North and South Korea.  It is unlikely that Kim Jong Un’s regime will ever end their incendiary rhetoric, or send the USS Pueblo home or respond to any terrorism litigation.

More information can be found at the below links.

Crew Experiences and Psychology: HERE
USS Pueblo Naval History: HERE
Un-Classified NSA Cryptologic Assessment: HERE
Un-Classified CIA Assessment: HERE
LBJ Chronology Of Seizure Actions: HERE
USS Pueblo Website: HERE
The Pueblo Incident — U.S. Navy Film (28 minutes): HERE

Photos courtesy of: U.S. Navy; Korea Konsult AB; NSA Archives and Washington Post newspaper archives

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s a reference to a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name (video). Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time. Interestingly, the song addresses no specific issue and prescribes no concrete action, but simply observes a world in upheaval.

“Changes” is a relevant topic as the Oregon Legislature passed hundreds of bills last year during the short summer session.

I won’t bore you with the “Sustainable Shopping Initiative” and the HB 2509 upheaval, but what follows are some changes in 2020 that motorcycle enthusiasts might be interested in knowing more about:

HB 2017 — Vehicle registration fees are a-changin!  In 2020, some vehicle fees in Oregon will be based on miles per gallon (MPG) as part of “Keep Oregon Moving,” a major transportation funding program. If you have an electric vehicle or a car that gets more than 40 miles per gallon, you’ll have two options. You can pay the full fee up front to register or renew your tags, or you can pay a lower fee and a monthly per-mile charge for miles driven in Oregon if you join OReGO. The net-net is, drivers with more fuel-efficient vehicles end up paying more in registration fees. I’ve reached out to DMV for a statement on specific changes related to electric motorcycles and will update this post with any information. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM. Oregon is one of a handful of states aggressively pursuing new registration fees (read more tax $$) for electric vehicles, in a preemptive move to capitalize on the shift to electric that is leading to lower gas taxes.

HB 57 — Were you recently pulled over and did the law enforcement officer fail to notice your change of address sticker on the back of your drivers license… which led to an even long(er) traffic stop? Good news!  HB 57 ends change-of-address stickers because Oregon DMV will no longer require stickers on drivers’ licenses, permits or ID cards when people change their addresses. It was estimated that ending the sticker program will save $550,000 a year in printing and postage costs. Those savings will go into the State Highway Fund to “support local and state roads.” Oregon law still requires driver license, permit and ID card holders to update the DMV with a change of address within 30 days of moving.

HB 2015 — Oregon becomes one-of-thirteen other states providing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. Proponents of extending driver’s licenses to immigrants argue that licensing undocumented residents will lead to fewer hit-and-runs, more trust between immigrants and police, and increased revenue for DMV. Opponents assert that granting licenses to undocumented residents reduces the incentive to follow immigration laws and would lead to increased voter fraud, ID fraud, bank fraud and easier for terrorists/criminals to obtain fraudulent documents.

Whether or not you get twisted up around an ideological axle on this topic is your choice, but Oregon’s HB 2015 — the Equal Access to Roads Act — signed in July 2019, now allows undocumented immigrants to obtain their driver’s licenses, though they still aren’t eligible to vote. While undocumented immigrants don’t have to prove citizenship, they will still be required to pass a driving test, pay a fee, and prove they’re current Oregon residents. House Bill 2015 removes the requirement for individuals to provide proof of legal presence when applying for a driver license or ID card. However, after January 1, 2021, individuals applying for a standard driver license or ID card must still provide proof of full legal name and identity, date of birth, Oregon residency, and a Social Security number. If an individual has not been assigned a Social Security number, they must sign and submit a written statement with their application. The law was passed in 2019 and is only applicable for a standard Oregon driver license or ID card. Important to note is that standard driver license or ID card is not Real ID compliant. All other requirements such as proof of name, identity, date of birth and Oregon residency stay the same.

You might be asking why was this law signed in 2019 if it doesn’t go into full effect until 2021? According to the DMV talking points — they are implementing a number of changes in 2020, including a new computer system and the introduction of Real ID compliant cards in July 2020. Waiting until January 2021 allows DMV to update the technology to accommodate the undocumented immigrants law change. Oregon and 13 other states and Washington, D.C. currently issue driver licenses to individuals who do not provide proof of lawful status.

SB 998 — Oregon passes a version of the “Idaho Stop” law.  SB 998 now allows bicyclists to yield at stop signs rather than come to a full and complete stop before proceeding through an intersection. If you ride a motorcycle in the city of Portland, you’ve likely observed that bicyclists rarely come to a complete stop at stop signs. In 2020, bicyclists now have the option of yielding—rather than coming to a complete stop—at both stop signs and flashing red lights. Red lights still require a full and complete stop, and bicyclists must still yield to pedestrians and right-of-way traffic, and maintain a safe speed.

SB 792 — Do you like spending time at the salvage yard looking for motorcycle projects? Maybe you plan to start “Bill’s Cycle Heap” business this summer? A vehicle dismantler is anyone who takes apart motor vehicles. This often includes recovering, rebuilding, reselling or recycling parts from worn out or damaged vehicles. SB 792 modifies laws related to vehicle dismantler certificates and the plates and registration transfer from totaled vehicles. Notices submitted to the DMV stating that a vehicle has been totaled will allow the transferring of plates and registration from that vehicle to another. The transfer can’t take place if a salvage title was previously issued.

HB 2017 — The thrill of paying more $$ for fuel!  HB 2017 means Oregon’s current gas tax will jump up by 2 cents, the second of four increases approved in 2017. The Oregon Department of Transportation will use some of the additional funds (estimated at $60 million) to improve state roadways, and the remainder will go to Oregon cities and counties.

HB 3452 — U.S. Highway 26 across Oregon is officially designated a POW/MIA Memorial Highway now.  HB 3452 was sponsored by Central Oregon lawmakers.

A list of bills passed by the Oregon House in the 2019 session is: HERE

UPDATE: January 9, 2020 — Per Customer Assistance (Chelsi) at Oregon Department of Transportation (DMV) —  “All motorcycle fees (electric or otherwise) are the same. They are not based on the same MPG scale as passenger vehicles. Thank you for using our online services.”

Photos courtesy the State of Oregon and Creative Commons.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Gridlock Traffic

With breweries (84 in Portland area), donuts and great bookstores, Portland is a dream to ride around and visit — until you get stuck in traffic.

Allstate Insurance has Portland as home to some of the worst drivers in the U.S., ranked at 181 out of 200 on their list of “Best Driving Cities.”

Not long ago, Portland also landed on a list of the top cities for drunk driving (compiled by QuoteWizard).

Now there is a study, published by Apartment Guide, that showcases Portland in the top-10 list of “The Worst Cities for Commuters.”  The city takes the No. 7 spot as one of the worst cities for commuters.  Number one is Los Angeles and number two is Seattle.  Studies for Portland indicate that in large part the congestion comes from roads and highways that haven’t been expanded to accommodate the large influx of millennial newcomers who have moved into the city/area.

For any of you who have experienced the brutal gridlock traffic and tried to ride around with traffic in Portland, it’s no surprise.

There is good news if you like higher taxes.  In November, the Oregon Transportation Commission sent the Legislature a report (PDF) outlining how ODOT and local governments have met specific requirements in order to trigger gas tax increases.  It’s called The Conditional Motor Fuels Tax Increase Accountability Report.  The report ensures a funding package and that all of the statutory conditions required to trigger the first two-cent motor fuels tax increase will become effective January 01, 2020.

Yea, more gas tax!

If you are interested in the grading of major roads in and through communities (good, fair, or poor) or so riders can see what they’re getting for their increased taxes, check out this website that was developed by ODOT.

But wait, there’s more…

Governor Kate Brown (who theoretically is responsible to set an example for state employees!), flies on a private jet to the Sunriver airport to meet with the Oregon Forest & Industries Council. When the backlash became louder and the media noted that the “green” optics looked rather poor, the governor’s office went on a charm-offensive and provided a ‘PR message’ stating that “the decision to travel by (private) plane was made to accommodate a busy schedule.”

Flying Private Jet

Don’t we all have “busy” schedules?  What does that say about the Brown administrations environmental credentials?

Any reasonable person would view a private jet as being something for the “privileged” few, but it now seems to include state employees.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m on-board the “Keep Oregon Moving” legislation, but rubbing the voters faces in the my time is more “valuable” and I have the power to fly over traffic congestion seems very tone deaf. Once this became public, Governor Brown’s office stated she would report the private flight as a gift, as required by law.

But, it’s not the only example.  Consider that on October 31st, the State of Oregon Aviation Board (the OAB is appointed by the Governor) members flew by private planes to a meeting in Sunriver for a hearing on the Aurora State Airport runway expansion while citizens who will have to live with the consequences of a decision needed to drive 3 hours each way to give 2 minutes of testimony!  I’m guessing, but if they were confronted I would anticipate their decision to travel by private plane was to accommodate their very “busy” schedule.

Does anything seem wrong about this?

The “do as I say, not as I do” optics are extremely poor given the Governors push for a cap on carbon emissions and her administrations advocacy that citizens need to pay more taxes and make more sacrifices for climate change.

I love planes!  But, private jets are the worst form of transportation if you are concerned about carbon emissions so, please stop lecturing me about climate change and demanding more sacrifices.

#hypocrites #mimicking #celebrities #privileged #elites

Photos courtesy of ODOT, TomTom and Instagram (Jet)

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As you know, I’m a motorcyclist licensed in the State of Oregon.  I’ve written many blog posts that represent motorcyclists and advocate for the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety and result in motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.

My perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles and having first hand knowledge of friends who have been injured when drivers don’t see motorcycles and the dramatic consequences.

Speaking of motorcycle accidents, the following are examples of common motorcycle accident causes:

• A car makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle, usually because the driver is not looking for, or does not otherwise see, the oncoming motorcycle.

• A vehicle pulls out of, or into, a side street or driveway, also usually because the driver does not look for, or otherwise see, the motorcycle.

• A car rear ends a motorcycle because the driver is inattentive or distracted, usually by a mobile electronic device.

• And the all-to-common motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcyclist!  There have been a number of motorcycles that inexplicably missed a curve on a clear, dry road and left the roadway.  Many suffered injuries or death after striking a tree, roadside sign, utility pole or boulder.  Be it age related (yes, I said that!), pushing the limit of the riders skills or the capability of the motorcycle, driving impaired — both by drugs and alcohol — or by fatigue and exposure — riders need to constantly tweak riding habits to stay sharp.

In tracking the U.S. states information, searching and following-up on the Oregon data of various motorcycle accidents in the news, it seems that negligent drivers are often not being cited for any violation when they cause a motorcycle accident. Moreover, careless drivers are typically only being cited for routine traffic violations, and reckless drivers are being cited only for careless driving.  I’ve also read about simple cell-phone tickets being cited when drivers cause severe accidents.  If you try and track motorcycle accident cases, they are usually not referred to the District Attorney’s office unless there is a fatality or a drunk driver involved. Careless and even are facing very little to no criminal repercussions for their conduct and instead being given a traffic violation or no traffic violation at all.

That’s all about to change!

Back in 2017, Oregon began to address this issue by passing HB 2598, which expanded Oregon’s Vehicular Assault Statute, ORS 811.060, to protect motorcyclists and their passengers from reckless drivers, making it a Class A Misdemeanor for a reckless driver to injure a motorcyclist or passenger. That same year, Oregon passed SB 493, which made it a Class A Misdemeanor for a criminally negligent driver to seriously injure a vulnerable user.

However, under the current statute, motorcyclists, moped operators, and their passengers are not, even though they are equally susceptible to being directly struck and seriously injured by a careless, or criminally negligent, driver as the other road users.

But, effective January 1, 2020 is Senate Bill 810.  Signed into law back in June, the Bill modifies the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way” to include persons operating or riding on moped or motorcycle.  The law (801.608, “Vulnerable user of a public way”) enhances penalties for motorists who kill or injure motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, highway workers or bicyclists.

Oregon has taken an important step to protect riders and their passengers. Oregon now joins the State of Washington along with several other states by treating motorcycles and mopeds the same as other vulnerable road users by significantly enhancing the penalties against careless and criminally negligent drivers.

Thank you Governor Brown!

UPDATED:  November 1, 2019 — Removed the 1st – 4th priority scheme under motorcycle accident causes paragraph (see comment below) as it was misleading.  Added a reference HERE to the NHTSA Highway Crash Data for 2018.

Photos courtesy of ODOT and GHSA

Oregon Crash Statistics & Reports    |    Invest in yourself and Stay Sharp HERE!

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Real ID Driver License Example

Do you remember the $300 million in federal taxpayer money wasted for Cover Oregon?

The State of Oregon shutdown its planned healthcare exchange in 2014 which never launched. Former Governor Kitzhaber had staked his reputation and his reelection bid on promoting State-based health and welfare programs.

Given all the in-fighting and blame among employees in the Oregon Health Authority, Cover Oregon was becoming a political liability so, the state quickly pivoted to a blame-Oracle narrative and instructed Attorney General Rosenblum to justify and pursue litigation.

Real ID Information

Now it’s Déjà vu all over again.

I’m talking about the Real ID Act and the State of Oregon Driver License.

The state and/or the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) looks to be unwilling to take responsibility for its own system failures in trying to comply with the federal Real ID Act.

 

Here are some facts:

• Oregonians are not required to change their standard driver license or ID card. The current card will continue to be valid until it expires, and you can use it for everything you use it for today – including air travel until October 2020.
• When your driver license or ID card expires, you have the option of renewing your standard license or ID card (prior to July 6, 2020) or getting a Real ID version on July 6, 2020.
• From the DMV stats page: There are approximately 4.1 million registered vehicles in the state of Oregon. Of those, about 3.2 million are passenger vehicles with nearly 3.1 million licensed drivers.  Those drivers are served by 60 DMV offices around the state.
• The State of Oregon is not yet compliant with the standards of the Real ID Act and CANNOT provide a Real ID option until July 6, 2020.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given Oregon multiple extensions to-date, but their last and final extension means the state has to provide a Real ID option prior to October 2020.
• The DHS will not recognize driver licenses with out Real ID for air travel after October 2020.

The State of Oregon has received constant warnings about being prepared and providing Real ID licenses, but the project, its problems, its scope, its goals, its costs, its risks, its timing, its milestones, its deliverable, and its schedule didn’t seem to be understood by many until DHS extensions stopped.  I’m not certain, but I anticipate government representatives making the rounds on TV pontificating whining how the State of Oregon teams faced so many legacy issues, including complex IT structures, manual processes, insufficient visibility into systems and dwindling resources to comply with this federal act.

Oregon DMV Locations

Let’s do the math — assuming all 3.1M Oregon licensed drivers get a Real ID license during the “90 day window” (July 6, 2020 – Sept 30, 2020) that is 34,444 drivers renewing licenses per day.  Divide 34,444 drivers by 60 (# of DMV offices across the state) that is 574 drivers per day, filing paperwork and renewing their licenses.  Of course the 90 days isn’t totally accurate as the DMV offices are not open 7-days a week and in addition, the highest number of drivers will be in a smaller number of the overloaded metro offices.

I’m not going all Chicken Little on you, but it looks like the “sky is falling on the Oregon DMV” and at best, this is a political embarrassment for Governor Brown.  At worst, it’s another example of Governor Brown’s administration  accountability or lack there of, for procedures in important areas and may set off another round of state employees lobbing rocks over the fence in a defensive, accusatory and inaccurate ways.

In fact, earlier this week it became all about offense as government officials started amplifying the spin on TV and recited:  “Avoid the long DMV lines next year and instead either get one or plan to use your current passport for air travel.”  Clearly this is an effort to change the narrative of Real ID implementation delays which I read with deep skepticism.

Who will help rescue the state from its own incompetence this time?  Why has the state kept key details on the reason for Real ID delays concealed from the public?  Why has no media outlet demanded an answer on the reasons of the delay?  How will the state triage and combat lengthy wait times?  Will the state redirect employees from the DMV headquarters and staff from other state agencies and departments— to reduce the wait times at field offices?

The State of Oregon owes the public a duty of transparency on the Real ID project!

 

Real ID Background:
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked.  While prior to September 11th, states were already implementing numerous security measures to counter issues with counterfeit driver’s licenses (DLs) and identification cards (IDs) and dated licensing procedures, after September 11th states accelerated these efforts to ensure that their driver’s licenses and identification cards were secure.

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005.  On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” Title II of Real ID—“Improved Security for Driver’s License’ and Personal Identification Cards”—it was based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”  It establishes standards that state-issued driver licenses and identification cards must meet in order to be accepted for certain federal purposes.

More information on the Real ID Act, federal funding and extensions is:  (HERE)

Photos courtesy of Oregon DMV and Google Maps

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Oregon State Capitol in the Spring

Did you know that in 2013, Portland was ranked as the 10th most traffic-congested metropolitan area in the United States?

Jump ahead two years later, and Portland is now ranked (2015) as the 8th most traffic-congested metropolitan area on a Friday in the United States.

I’m an advocate for motorcycle safety and the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety with a result of increased motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.  Like many of you, I’ve been riding for a good long while and my perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles across the United States (including in California).

Given the fact that Oregon continues to struggle with funding issues associated with overhauling an aging transportation infrastructure at the same time in which it is coming under increasing strain from population growth you’d think aspects of improving stop-and-go traffic situations would be relatively straightforward.  It’s not!  There is a lot of discussion and hand-wringing in Salem about riding motorcycles, incentivizing motorcycle use in dense urban areas and using less fuel-efficient automobiles, but few actionable plans seem to materialize or get put into motion to address increased traffic congestion.

One could debate if the “let it melt” strategy for ice storms, is being applied to traffic congestion, but instead it would be “watch it get worse.”  I’m still looking for a report out or the glowing “success” memo from ODOT in regards to the near Real-Time Reader Signs on Highway 217 that seldom seem to be accurate.

In fairness, there have been enhancements to various roadways to “ease” some traffic congestion and construction is now happening on Highway 26 to widen the road.  In addition, there is a major enhancement planned to improve traffic conditions and highway operations on I-5 from Highway 99W to I-205.  Part of the Corridor Bottleneck Operations Study, the I-5 project isn’t going to start until early 2018 and hopefully be completed by the fall of 2019.

Below is a quick summary of some key 2017 motorcycle legislation and the current status:

Senate Bill 385Lane Sharing (Highways Only) — Bill would have made lane splitting legal, but has died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) discussed, debated and identified merits and problems with this legislation, and decided at its February 16, 2017 meeting to oppose SB 385 by a 5-2 vote in the name of motorcyclist and motorist safety.  ODOT opposed passage of SB 385 citing that Oregonians don’t support this motorcycle riding practice and that the safety of motorcyclists across the state of Oregon will be compromised.  The AAA and the Oregon Trucking Association also testified against the bill.

The next legislative session opportunity is now in 2019.

You might recall that there was an identical bill which failed two years ago — SB 694.  Interestingly this bill received initial support from the GAC-MS.  The group provided written and verbal testimony in support of the bill which made it out of committee (unanimously) and passed the full Senate with a 2/3 bipartisan majority before failing in the House.  The GAC-MS changed its position after SB 694 passed the Senate and then opposed the bill at the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.  It’s unclear why the Committee’s position switched or the mixed messages on the riding practice.

What is the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) you ask?

It’s an influential group comprised of eight volunteer citizens who advise the Governor and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative on motorcycle safety issues and legislation. The GAC-MS reviews legislation that could or might affect motorcycle safety in Oregon.  The Committee consider’s input from Oregon Confederation of Clubs, Abate of Oregon, BIKEPAC of Oregon, Law Enforcement, ODOT, AAA, Trucking Association to name a few and from motorcyclists and organizations in support of motorcycle legislation.

House Bill 2665Lane Sharing (Lanes and Shoulders) — Allows operators of motorcycles and mopeds to travel on the shoulder of highway during traffic jams or slowdowns.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety Committee voted to oppose 7-0.

Senate Bill 680Lane Sharing (All Roads) — Allows operators of motorcycles and mopeds to travel between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles during traffic jams or slowdowns.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose 7-0 in a previous meeting.

House Bill 2598Vehicular Assault of Motorcycle Riders (Enhanced Penalties) or often called the “Driver Responsibility Bill” — Expands offense of vehicular assault to include contact with motorcycle, motorcycle operator or motorcycle passenger.  Specifically adds motorcyclists (and/or their passengers) to a current Oregon law that provides those who operate another vehicle recklessly resulting in contact with and injury to a motorcyclist and/or their passenger to be possibly charged with the crime of “vehicular assault” and its associated penalties.  There is no specific provisions to protect motorcyclists from reckless drivers and there is no specific accountability for drivers that injure a motorcyclist as opposed to a pedestrian or a bicyclist, and motorcyclists are not on the vulnerable users list.

The bill has moved thru the House committee with a “pass” recommendation and is headed for House Floor vote.  The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose 4-3 the bill and is determining how best to communicate the Committee’s position to the legislation.

House Bill 2599Helmet Choice — Requires only persons under 21 years of age to wear motorcycle helmet while riding on or operating motorcycle or moped.  This is an emergency bill and would take immediate effect upon passage. Topics discussed included: individual choice, what happens when a rider doesn’t have health insurance and needs long-term care, the efficacy of the age requirement, the inability to see or hear as well when wearing a helmet.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to oppose the bill.

Senate Bill 36Three Wheel Motorcycle Skills TestingWaiver — This bill eliminates the requirement that DMV conduct a skills test prior to issuance of a restricted three-wheel motorcycle endorsement. Individuals applying for the three-wheel motorcycle endorsement would still take the motorcycle knowledge test.  There are approximately 45 tests offered per year at five DMV field offices for the restrictive three-wheel motorcycle user.  The DMV is not currently granting waivers to three-wheel cycle users and that users who want a three-wheel motorcycle only endorsement still have to take knowledge and skills tests and receive a unique endorsement.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety voted to support the bill.

I’ll continue to update this blog post as I learn about any bill updates during the 2017 legislative session.

Photo courtesy of State of Oregon

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Spring is here! Flowers are in bloom, birds are chirping, the sun is shining on many days in the Northwest, the days are longer and people feel more energetic.  Many want to get out to a happier place and enjoy the wind in their face.

Interestingly, it’s been reported that the Daylight Savings time change can be dangerous for some and researchers have shown there are increases in motor vehicle accidents.  Lack of sleep impairs driving ability, and driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as distracted driving.

Speaking of distracted driving

If you’ve been on a motorcycle for any length of time you’ve seen it all.  Talking on the cell phone, driving slow and looking down on the freeway, reading email at stop lights only to get honked at, eating and drinking, grooming, fiddling with instrument controls and GPS and talking with a passenger while using their hands for expressions. 

These are just a few of the common types of distracted driving habits that negligent drivers engage in across the northwest.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.28.44 PMAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine Americans are killed every day in automobile crashes that involve a driver who is distracted by some other activity while behind the wheel (Norton, 2015). As distracted driving crashes continue to claim lives, state agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are working to develop countermeasures that will may convince drivers to drive more responsibly.

Despite all the efforts to implement safe driving campaigns which have included things like billboard slogans, graphic video clips, television (TV) and radio ads, publications and legislative initiatives; the crashes continue to increase. As reported by Kullgren (2015), fatal crashes in Oregon spiked from 217 to 288, or 33% from September 23, 2014 through September 23, 2015. During this same time period, total deaths increased from 238 to 312, or 31%; pedestrian deaths increased from 33 to 54, or 64%; and motorcycle deaths increased from 40 to 46, or 15%.

When drivers overstep the inattentive line as they willfully impose their own level of risk on others they become socially and legally responsible. Drivers who allow themselves to be distracted by their multi-tasking activities are increasing the risk factor for themselves and imposing that dangerous limit on motorcyclists, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. This increased risk to which others are subjected is similar to other driver behavior’s that are considered aggressive and illegal: going through red lights, failing to yield, exceeding safe speed limits, reckless weaving, drinking and driving, driving drowsy, road rage, etc.  In addition, distracted driving causes auto insurance to go up for everyone and state legislators feel the need to control more of our lives via instituted laws.  

And speaking of legislators, today starts Oregon’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a big kick-off event in the capitol.  If you want to read more about the Distracted Driving Epidemic in Oregon see this report which details the problem, identifies some solutions and highlights the sobering facts.

Be alert out there!

UPDATED: April 18, 2017 — Noah Budnick, Director of Public Policy & Gov. Affairs for Zendrive published a blog post with some excellent data on Distracted Driving.  Interestingly was the finding that Oregon was the LEAST distracted of the states, however, the city of Portland was in 10th place of cities that were most distracted.  You can read the blog post HERE or download the report.

References:

Kullgren, I. K. (2015, September 30). More Oregonians are dying in car crashes, new data show. The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/more_oregonians_are_dying_in_c.html

Norton, A. (2015). Texting while driving: Does banning it make a difference? HealthDay. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-while-driving-does-banning-it-make-a-difference/

Photos courtesy of ODOT

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