June 6th, 2008 5:33 pm | by Kevin Stark News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Widow of Cyclist Pushes Stiffer Penalties for Drivers Who Kill

Tags: bicycling
Tim O'Donnell
An Oregon woman whose husband was slain last year while riding his bicycle is holding a press conference with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance next Monday to push a state law stiffening penalties for motorists who cause the death of a bicyclist. Mary O'Donnell, the widow of bicyclist Tim O' Donnell (pictured), and the the BTA will announce their intention to pursue a Vehicular Homicide law in the 2009 Oregon State Legislature.

The meeting will be held in the conference room of Swanson Thomas & Coon, the lawyers for Tim O'Donnell's estate.

Mary O'Donnell and the BTA would like to increase penalties for motorists who have histories of traffic violations and cause the death of bicyclists. They are seeking to establish a “new Vehicular Homicide Law for Oregon to better protect roadway users by increasing penalties for drivers who cause deaths as a result of their habitual violation of traffic laws,” according to a press release. They hope the law that will classify Vehicular Homicide as a Class B Felony.

On June 9, 2007, Tim O'Donnell, 66, was riding on Northwest Cornelius-Schefflin Road when he was struck down by a 2008 Dodge Avenger driven by 26-year-old Jennifer Knight, who was attempting to pass him as he turned left onto Long Road.

Later that month, Knight pleaded no contest to three citations she received in connection with the June 9 fatality: driving with a suspended license, careless driving and passing in a no-passing zone. She received a fine of $1,142 and spent no time in jail, despite being found responsible for the accident.

Prior to the accident, Knight had had her license suspended in Oregon for failing to appear in court on a ticket for Driving Uninsured. She then obtained a license in the state of Idaho.

WW reported last year that six days prior to killing O'Donnell, Knight had collided with another vehicle, sending the driver and her 88-year-old passenger to the hospital.

According to Chris Quinn in the Washington County District Attorney's Office, no previous infractions counted against Knight because under Oregon law at that time, “prior bad acts are not admissible” in a case against her.

Mary O'Donnell said in the press release, "Tim and I would have been married 50 years this April, but I celebrated this anniversary by myself because a dangerous driver ran him down on his bike. Unlicensed and Uninsured Drivers are a danger to every one on Oregon's roads. These drivers have already demonstrated their inability of safely operate a motor vehicle. Some drivers have been suspended multiple times and continue to drive. It is inexcusable and unacceptable for the state to continue to allow them to flaunt the law and to endanger everybody else who is using our roads including other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians."

Karl Rohde, the BTA's Government Relations and Public Affairs Director, says passing this legislation "is going to be a key priority for our legislative agenda."

[Image: Tim O'Donnell Memorial Fund]
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