From the Editor: Easy money for the City of Portland?
Portland has an understaffed police force, which leads to most police attention being upon serious crimes. Small infractions are generally very low in priority, unless a citizen complaint is received. But some of those small infractions are subject to fines that could really add up.
Somebody at City Hall may soon realize that dedicating just one officer, or even a parking enforcement person, to the job of looking for and citing for some of these infractions would not only more than pay the salary of the person doing it, but actually could raise substantial sums for the city.
So now, perhaps, we should give Portlanders a chance proactively to avoid making these mistakes, and avoiding the fines!
The first one could be a real moneymaker, since as you travel around Inner Southeast or anywhere else in the city you see this infraction on, it seems, practically every block. It's "parking facing the wrong way".
What? You didn't know that was illegal? Your editor must confess he never thought about it himself, having seen it all the time – until he, himself, got a ticket for doing it. This was one ticket he didn't even think about contesting, since the purpose of the law is pretty obvious when you think about it: If you park with your vehicle facing into oncoming traffic, you had to cross oncoming traffic to park that way, and you will have to do it again as you depart. At night, turning on headlights before pulling out can certainly alarm an oncoming driver who sees headlights appearing in the same lane.
So, yes, it is illegal – not only in Portland, but practically everywhere.
Well, it shouldn't surprise anybody that parking across a driveway is illegal, and we once knew a police officer in Inner Southeast who made a point of ticketing every car he saw parked like that. What seems to surprise some people is discovering it is illegal to park across your OWN driveway! And some people seem to do it all the time.
Not only is a driveway never to be subject to blockage by a vehicle – even your own – but it is not obvious that the blocking car is yours, so the law makes no exceptions.
Those two infractions could support a roving enforcement person or two as a fulltime job. Others probably would require posting them somewhere specific – like corners where people frequently "Turn right on Red". At one time, long ago, that was illegal also, but Oregon and most states now permit it – with three important requirements: First, you have to come to a full stop first. Second, you have to look to make sure no vehicle is coming. And third, make sure that there is no sign posted saying "No turn on Red". (If there is a red turn arrow, then there is a solid reason for not turning there.)
Apparently a great many drivers in Portland do not know about those three requirements before proceeding, because most drivers do not follow one or more of them. Sometimes all three. And that is dangerous to the drivers who have the Green light. (This law is so constantly bent or broken, that perhaps it is time for a conversation about repealing the "Turn right on Red" privilege?)
Anybody posted at an intersection to enforce that rule could add to the revenue by ticketing those who "run" Yellow lights, and even Red lights! Once that was almost unheard of in Portland; now you see it constantly.
At one time, in the first half of the last century, traffic lights were only two colors – Red and Green. But the problem, then, was the lights would change directly from Green to Red with no warning, which meant that there had to be a lag before cross traffic got its Green light after your street's light turned Red, to avoid collisions. A better solution appeared – add a Yellow light, as a transition to Red, so the intersection would have a moment to clear before the lights changed Green for the cross traffic.
But here's what most drivers seem to think Yellow means: Speed up to beat the Red. Or, even, speed up to run the Red light after it changes! If you think that, you are wrong. You have committed an infraction, if you do either one. What Yellow actually means is: If you are in the intersection, complete the crossing; but if you have time to stop BEFORE you enter an intersection when the light has turned Yellow, then you must!
And that brings up an important point that many drivers obviously do not know. We once waited in the left turn lane on Tacoma Street in Sellwood through three Green lights behind a guy in a pickup who waited at the crosswalk line, signaling a left turn. When the third Green light appeared for him (in this intersection in which there is no left turn light), he peeled out ahead of the oncoming traffic, with tires squealing, to make his left turn.
That was illegal. He violated the right of way of the oncoming drivers, and he would have been cited, had an officer observed it. But he was apparently unaware of how the law would have permitted him to make his left turn way back on that first Green light – and it's worth mentioning here, since we have seen many other drivers who seem unaware of it too.
Here it is. If you are first in line in a left turn lane at a traffic light which does not include a dedicated left-turn signal – then when you get the Green light, you are allowed to pull straight forward into the intersection, signaling a turn. You then either wait for a clear opportunity to turn, or you complete your turn when the oncoming traffic stops – even if your light is Red by then! You were in the intersection waiting to turn, when the light turned Red, and you are legally entitled to complete the turn before the cross traffic can proceed.
In this way, at least one vehicle may legally complete a left turn on every light cycle, even if the oncoming traffic is unrelenting.
Consistent enforcement of traffic laws at individual intersections will probably have to wait until Portland manages to get its police force back up to a staffing level similar to most other large cities in the United States – although residents certainly can ask for an "enforcement mission" at problem intersections, and from time to time officers will indeed spend some time there "educating motorists".
But, for those two widespread parking issues with which we began this essay, Portland could easily make a lot of money with a dedicated enforcement officer or two just out patrolling the streets daily.
We don't see how it could fail – unless drivers in Portland were to wise up and stop making these casual mistakes!
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