Chipman roadway safety bill gets green light from Committee

Posted: May 15, 2017 | Senator Chipman

The Legislature’s Transportation Committee voted 11-1 on Thursday for bipartisan endorsement of a bill by Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, to require drivers to yield the right-of-way to a bus signalling to re-enter traffic from a bus stop.

In the absence of yield-to-bus ordinances, motorists are emboldened to try to speed up and get around buses. Such action makes the roads more dangerous for motorists and pedestrians alike. With yield-to-bus policies in place, it would be clear that motorists must yield to a public transit bus that has indicated it is trying to merge back into traffic.

“This is a serious public safety issue, especially in Portland,” said Sen. Chipman. “Our high school students use METRO buses, which are often crowded before and after school with many kids standing. If a bus driver has to slam on the brakes to avoid a car trying to get around the bus, I’m afraid we will see more injuries.”

At a recent public hearing, Greater Portland Transit Authority bus drivers testified that injuries, and even at least one death, have occurred from this type of incident.

“As soon as I turn on the left turn signal to merge into traffic, cars and trucks speed up so they do not have to follow that bus,” said bus driver Michael LePage of Westbrook. “Although we carefully attempt to leave the curb, waiting for that one considerate driver to let us out, that’s just not happening during the morning and afternoon rush hours and there just isn’t a gap safe enough to pull out.”

The waiting time to merge into traffic causes delays, adding up to 15 minutes to a route. This makes the bus system less reliable for riders, which discourages ridership.

LD 951 now heads to the Senate for initial votes.