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As a police officer, what do you see drivers doing that cause issues or problems on the road?

(A Lake Oswego police officer or firefighter answers readers' questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call Editor Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

TREATHands down, the No. 1 issue in this community is distracted driving.

Last year, we had 391 crashes in the City of Lake Oswego. So far this year, we have had 231 crashes, including a pedestrian fatality. That puts us on pace to have 423 crashes in 2017, and that would be the highest number of crashes ever recorded in a single year here.

From my perspective, this is what I see: drivers on their phones texting, talking, using GPS, accessing voicemail, posting to social media, taking selfies while driving, etc. A lot of our citizens are simply not paying attention, and they are crashing into other vehicles, driving off the road or hitting parked cars in alarming numbers. One month alone, we had 18 parked cars struck. You simply are not driving your vehicle and paying attention if you're hitting a parked car.

Another observation is that drivers often tell me they don't understand what road signs mean — even though having a driver's license means you do understand that a yellow sign is a cautionary/advisory sign, that regulatory signs are black and white, and that information signs are blue or brown. A yellow sign with "10 MPH" on it does not mean that's the speed limit, for example, but that's news to many drivers I meet.

Having a driver's license also means that you understand the DMV manual and the rules of the road. You know that you can't make a U-turn at a controlled (lighted) intersection unless there is a sign that says "U-turn Permitted." You know that a pedestrian has the right of way, and that on a two-lane road, you must let the pedestrian completely cross the street before you can proceed. You know that you must signal when leaving a roundabout (or any time you're making a turn or changing lanes).

And you understand that you can't drive down the center lane of Country Club Road for 1,200 feet when traffic backs up, just because you're planning to eventually turn left. You know you can't drive in the center lane until the yellow line ends and the turn lane opens to you. (Why? Because the person who waited until the proper time to enter the turn lane isn't expecting you to be speeding toward them, and a crash will often occur.)

Which brings me to the painted white lanes on the roadway. Those solid white lines mean you can't cross them once you're in the lane. You can't jump out of a dedicated left turn. Why? Because there's a solid white line to your right, and once you enter the turn lane, you must make your turn. No one expects you to pull back into the travel lane, and when you do, that's when crashes occur.

I live here. You live here. We work, play and enjoy all things Lake Oswego. But we need to change our driving habits so that no one is hurt, injured or killed because of our inattentiveness or our ignorance of the rules of the road. Someone has already lost their life this year. We don't need another fatality.

Please join me in making a concerted effort to watch for pedestrians, bicyclists and each other on the road. If you're confused about the rules, re-read the DMV manual or call our non-emergency number at 503-635-0238 and talk to an officer. And most importantly, please put down your phone while you're behind the wheel.

— Lt. Doug Treat

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