Last week HB 1339, the Vulnerable User’s Bill, passed the House. The Senate already passed a different version and will now have to review 1339. The bill establishes new penalties for “negligent” drivers that cause serious injury to a bicyclist or pedestrian.
The base penalty is a $5000 fine, reduced to no less than $1000, and a 90 day suspension of driving privileges. The driver may opt instead to pay $250 plus administrative costs, attend traffic school, and perform a court-set amount of community service (up to 100 hours) relating to driving safety.
As someone who spends roughly equal time driving and bicycling, I’m glad the state is placing more responsibility on drivers, people with all the power on the streets. This bill is a step forward.
However, I wish there was a little less emphasis on punishment and more on prevention. People tend to discount the possibility that their divided attention will cause accidents, and I’m not sure piling on penalties will be effective. What I’d rather see is removal from the road of people that have demonstrated they aren’t responsible enough to handle a deadly weapon. That would mean license suspensions for years, not days, and jail for people who drive around without a license*. Although I don’t have a problem with the fines, I don’t think they’ll make us much safer.
* The current law says 10 days jail for a first offense, which is not enough.