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MailTribune.com
  • You should report violations to law enforcement

  • I read your article on bikes in the Mail Tribune. I am a new cyclist. When cars pass me and don't leave the 6-foot-wide space (I ride over Exit 19 on I-5 and there is no bike lane) and no policeman is around noticing my close brush with death, would I be able to get their address from their license plate number and then send ...
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  • I read your article on bikes in the Mail Tribune. I am a new cyclist. When cars pass me and don't leave the 6-foot-wide space (I ride over Exit 19 on I-5 and there is no bike lane) and no policeman is around noticing my close brush with death, would I be able to get their address from their license plate number and then send them a printed copy of this law? Though I'm sure the adrenaline rush of almost dying will kill any of the brain cells required to memorize a license plate number.
    — Judy
    Let me clarify. It isn't a 6-foot-wide space, it's the safe distance judged to be needed should the bicyclist have a problem.
    Depending on circumstances, that could be 4 feet or 8 feet; you have to use your judgment in each instance.
    However, what I think you're really asking is a question on what you can do if you see a violation of this law — or of any traffic law. When you deal with violations, citizens can call them in, and some departments, such as ours and Medford Police Department's, have forms for citizen complaints.
    To successfully prosecute a violator, however, you're going to need more than just the car's license plate.
    You should know time, date and location and be willing to appear against them in court. Most importantly, you should be able to identify the driver in case the person is not the registered owner. Otherwise, to be cited, most violations must be witnessed by a police officer.
    For traffic crimes it's a little different. A complaint can be made, and we can follow up, citing or arresting based on probable cause.
    One thing you can't do is go to DMV and get them to give you a copy of someone's vehicle registration, so that's not an available option.
    Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or email cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.
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