Notes from the Newsroom: Staying alive in the holiday season (Dec. 14, 2022)

Scott Swanson

I consider myself very well-versed in dealing with moving vehicles.

I’ve been a runner for 40-plus years – though a bit slower now – and I’ve shared the road with cars all over the world.

When I was a kid, I lived in Japan, where I delivered newspapers on a bike. My morning paper route developed into a twice-a-day deal which had me barreling through afternoon downtown traffic in the town we lived in. Japan isn’t Southeast Asia in terms of driving culture, but the streets are very narrow and, well, I’m not proud of everything I did then. I did learn a lot about timing and gauging distance between walls and cars.

So, you’re probably wondering, why are we talking about this?

Because I’ve had two uncomfortably close calls in just the last three weeks, right here in Sweet Home, crossing Main Street.

Both involved cars that barreled past me while I was on the crosswalk at 13th Avenue. Both were scary, not because I’m phobic, but because they whipped by a few feet in front of me (being generous here) as I slammed on my pedestrian brakes and they didn’t even slow down.

In both cases, I’d already crossed three lanes of traffic and realized that the vehicles in question were not going to stop, as the law requires.

I’ve written about Oregon’s crosswalk law before, noting that it isn’t very realistic because you are taking your life in your hands if you put your faith in that law – which isn’t really what I was doing when I was crossing Main. I was definitely watching.

A helpful website,, notes that nearly 800 pedestrians were injured and 52 were killed in Oregon motor vehicle crashes from 2009 through 2014. Most of these crashes were a result of drivers failing to yield to the person walking, and nearly half happened in a crosswalk. 

The second time I nearly got nailed, which happened just last week, the guy blew by me without even touching the brakes in the far-right westbound lane; if I’d put my faith in that law, I’d be celebrating the holidays in the hospital – or worse. And he was looking right into my eyes when this happened. Oh, and this was about 3:45 p.m. It wasn’t dark. Scary.

In a report entitled “Oregon Walks Fatal Pedestrian Crash Report – Facts and Figures,” summarizing data for fatal pedestrian crashes (48 of them) occurring in Portland from 2017-19, 56% of fatal pedestrian crashes occurred at an intersection.

Interesting. I’ve often wondered whether that law actually increases pedestrian risk rather than diminishes it.

And, full disclosure here, I confess I’ve been caught by surprise (or in some cases, haven’t been paying attention) while driving and have violated pedestrians’ right-of-ways on various occasions.

Speaking from anecdotal experience, though, it seems like drivers are tending to be more aggressive and less considerate (of people or that law) than I remember in the past. I recall, some years ago, when Sweet Home police staged a crackdown on crosswalk scofflaws, and wrote a bunch of tickets to people who didn’t stop when their “decoy” crossed the street.

There was an outcry, but I thought at the time and I still think now that if people have gotten to the point that they look you in the eye as they accelerate past you, it might be time to crack down — to save lives.