Tag Archive for 'vulnerable users bill'

Vulernable Users Bill passes House

The Vulnerable Users Bill, which would stiffen penalties against negligent drivers that hit pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable roadway users, has passed the state house. PubliCola has a longer write-up:

Kline’s legislation creates a new infraction where drivers who strike vulnerable users are subject to a $5,000 fine and restricted from driving for 90 days. Currently, drivers who strike vulnerable users in the second degree are subject only to a $250 fine. Opponents of the legislation such as Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, North Bend) have argued in the past that vulnerable users shouldn’t be treated any differently than other car drivers.

This version differs from the version passed by the Senate, so this version will be sent to the Senate for final passage before being sent to be signed by the governor.


Vulnerable User bill passed by Senate

Senate Bill 5326, which would increase the penalty for driving negligently and hitting a pedestrian or cyclist, was passed in the state Senate by a vote of 43-5 on Thursday.

This bill addresses negligent (not reckless) driving, so it wouldn’t apply to recent sentences, that were given for drunk driving. Here’s more information from The Olympian:

Under existing law, the penalties are the same for someone who drives negligently but does not hurt anyone and for a negligent driver who injures or kills a biker or pedestrian.

“If you are negligent and you kill someone, what you get is a ticket and a $250 fine,” said Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor. “Families see that small fine and wonder, why is someone getting away with a killing and getting a $250 fine?”

According to data from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which helped draft the bill, an average of 229 Washington bikers and pedestrians were killed or seriously injured per year between 2004 and 2007 in accidents where the driver failed to yield, was driving too fast, ran a red light or wasn’t paying attention.

John Schochet, a lawyer from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office who worked on the bill, said if you drive recklessly, meaning you are intentionally driving in a way that is likely to harm a person or property, but don’t hurt anyone, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you drive recklessly and do hurt or kill someone, you can be charged with a felony.

If you drive negligently, however, meaning you don’t drive in a way that a reasonably careful person would, you have committed a traffic infraction, not a crime, and you get the same penalties whether you kill someone or not.

For a case where someone is injured or killed, police officers and courts have to decide whether the driver who caused the accident was reckless or negligent, and, Schochet said, there is no middle ground between the two.

“This fills a gap,” said Schochet, referring to the Senate bill. “Right now there’s really nothing between a traffic ticket and a felony charge.”

If the bill is enacted, people who drive negligently and seriously hurt or kill a “vulnerable road user” would either have to pay a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and have their licenses revoked for 90 days or appear at a hearing, pay a $250 fine, take a traffic safety course and complete 100 hours of community service. Vulnerable users include moped riders, equestrians and tractor drivers as well as bikers and pedestrians.

A bill has to be passed by the House as well, however the good news is that the companion bill HB 1339 has made it out of the house rules committee.


10 year sentence for driver who struck and killed pedestrian

From the Times:

A 34-year-old sex offender with a lengthy rap sheet was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison Friday for running over and killing a 91-year-old Capitol Hill woman last year.

Shipp’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit, after the crash, according to police. Shipp, police said, denied being drunk, saying he had taken a 500-milligram Vicodin pill several hours earlier.

[Judge] Yu told Shipp his two-page criminal history persuaded her to hand down a harsh sentence. The judge questioned whether Shipp ever had learned a lesson from time he previously spent behind bars.

It’s unlikely the sentence would have been nearly as severe if the negligent driver were not a repeat offender. Currently, a vulnerable users bill is being considered in committees in the state congress, which would increase penalties for vehicular negligence. Seattle Bike Blog has a good write-up of the status of HB 1339 and SB 5326.