Case Studies

Portland: Training Instead of Fines

Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, a program of the Portland-based Legacy Health System, collaborated with the City of Portland, Multnomah County courts, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Police Bureau, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and Willamette Pedestrian Coalition to offer eligible first-time traffic offenders—drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists—the option of taking a Share the Road safety class instead of paying a fine.

Ticketed violators who provide the court with their class-completion certificate can have their citation dismissed or discharged. Eligible traffic violations fall within three general categories:

  • Being in the wrong place on the road (such as a car in a bike lane)
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • The non-use of safety equipment

Law-enforcement officers writing the citation or court staff at the arraignment process refer ticketed violators to the Share the Road class. In nearly four years of providing the class, TNTT has seen 14,000 participants. Citation receivers are eligible for a dismissal or discharge only if they haven’t taken the safety class before. Share the Road instructors maintain a database of class attendees and check that registered students haven’t already participated in the program. The database includes the citation receiver’s name, date of birth, court case number, type of traffic violation, source of the class referral, and date of class completion. That information is then entered into the court’s computer records system within five days after each class.

The two-hour discussion is taught twice a month at the 125-seat Legacy Emmanuel hospital auditorium by a judge, a police officer, a trauma nurse, and either a bicycle or pedestrian advocate. The class explains Oregon law as it relates to drivers, pedestrians, and bicycles; presents videos, photos, and scenarios where people risk being hurt as a result of unsafe bicycling, walking, and driving behavior; and explains the physical, emotional, and legal consequences of traffic violations and crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. At the end of the class, each participant receives a certificate of completion, which he or she then files with the court for an automatic or discretionary dismissal or sentence of discharge (depending on the traffic violation).

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.