OSHA tells school district to ban motorcycle travel

Principal was injured in work-related wreck; Board mulls recommendation

The state has recommended that the Eagle Point School District prohibit employees from using motorcycles as transportation to work-related activities after Principal Tiffany O'Donnell was seriously injured Sept. 13 in a motorcycle accident en route between the two rural schools.

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division officials said the school district has not violated any regulations, and no citations have been issued to the district. But OSHA cautioned that allowing employees to drive motorcycles for work activities presents a hazard to employees, as well as a liability to the school district.

The agency also recommended that administrators be added to the district's DMV automatic reporting system where the district can check on employees' driving records and licenses to operate a motor vehicle. Neither recommendation is mandatory, according to OSHA.

Administrators are the only district employees excluded from the automatic reporting system, but Eagle Point schools Superintendent Cynda Rickert said the district's human resources department already has taken steps to change that.

"We don't know if the Board will move forward on a policy not allowing you to drive a motorcycle if you are doing school business," she said.

O'Donnell, principal of both Elk Trail Elementary School and Shady Cove School, was driving her Suzuki motorcycle from the Trail campus to the Shady Cove campus when she was struck by a Nissan pickup truck. The driver was making an illegal U-turn on Highway 62, police said. O'Donnell's right leg and pelvis were broken in the crash, and she underwent multiple surgeries at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland to reconstruct her leg. She is now at home in Medford recovering from her injuries.

Tiffanie Lambert, a White Mountain Middle School teacher, is substituting for O'Donnell during her absence.

Eagle Point school administrators are expected to drive their personal vehicle for work purposes, but it hadn't occurred to district officials to dictate what kind of vehicle they drive, Rickert said.

She said the School Board would like to consult with the Oregon School Boards Association, which guides districts in crafting or amending policies, before making a decision on whether to ban motorcycles for school business.

"We can surely see some merit in the recommendation," she said. "There is always another side to this. Would that then mean we would have to purchase more vehicles for our employees to use? We're hoping OSBA can tell us that."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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