Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vulnerable roadway users

All roadway users are not equal. Motorists are surrounded by a metal shell, usually cushioned by air bags during a crash. Cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motorists don't have that protection and are more vulnerable in a crash with a motor vehicle. However, in our legal system there usually is no distinction between a crash involve motor vehicles and one involving a vehicle and a vulnerable user. Often only minor penalties are levied against motorists who injure or kill bicyclists.

The concept of vulnerable users is common in Europe. Oregon was the first U.S. jurisdiction to enact legislation to acknowledge the existence of vulnerable roadway users and to create enhanced penalties when a crash involves a vulnerable user. In 2007 the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3314, creating an enhanced penalty for careless driving if it contributes to serious physical injury or death to a "vulnerable user of a public way". The bill went into effect January 1, 2008. The above link is a good history of the process leading up to passage of the bill.

On November 20 of this year a similar bill, H.B. 4861, Vulnerable Users Bill, passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly and we assume will be signed into law soon. We plan to discuss this topic at future FABB meetings.

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