Multitasking and driving don’t mix … especially in police vehicles

We’ve all probably had run-ins with a distracted driver talking on a cell phone or fiddling with a radio or what have you, but a run-in with a distracted police officer driving a police vehicle? That would be rare. Unfortunately for an 80-year-old Portland woman, such a thing was not rare. The Ethiopian immigrant was crossing the street when she was struck by a police car. The officer had briefly taken his eyes off the road to look at the car’s mobile data computer.

The pedestrian’s injuries were such that she was in the hospital for five days and then a rehabilitation center for two months. She now uses a walker. She sued the city and was recently awarded more than $338,000, which included some $88,000 for medical expenses and $250,000 in general damages.

Police officers have a host of gadgets to deal with while on the job, including mobile computers and two-way radios. Though Portland police are not allowed to use cell phones or other communication devices while driving city-owned vehicles, there is an exception to the policy that allows for some use if officers are engaged in police business. That seems pretty vague!As a result of the lawsuit, the Portland police bureau will look into new or different training to increase safety.