Florida is the most dangerous state in the U.S. for pedestrians. Bicycling fatalities are higher in Florida than any other state. Pedestrians account for 27% of traffic fatalities in major U.S. cities. The four most dangerous large metropolitan areas in the U.S. for pedestrians are Orlando-Kissimmee, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Jacksonville, and Miami. Four Florida cities are the most unsafe in our whole country. Deaths and injuries to bicycle riders spiked upward in the U.S. from 2010 to 2011 according to the U.S. D.O.T. Bicycle deaths have increased 9%, pedestrian deaths have increased 3%, while motor vehicle deaths decreased by 7,500.
The purpose of a Vulnerable Road User Law is to protect people who use the road (described in Section 1 below) that are not otherwise protected by being encased in the protective steel shell of a motor vehicle. Currently, unless there is proof of gross negligence or circumstances such as alcohol, drugs, there are inadequate provisions in state law to support bringing meaningful and significant charges against the motor vehicle driver who has caused such harm to a vulnerable user. It is our view that Florida law is far too lenient in punishing careless drivers who injure these vulnerable users, as these careless drivers most often receive merely a fine which they can handle by mail. They are not even required to make a court appearance after a horrific collision. Too often, law enforcement believes that these pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable users should expect to be injured because they are being reckless in trying to share the road, and should retreat to the sidewalk where they belong. This needs to be changed. Non-motorists using a road or street have every right to expect that drivers will be alert and avoid them. For those drivers who aren’t willing or are unable to comply, there needs to be a provision in state law where their driving skills are called into question and penalties applied.
The below vulnerable user law provides for increased fines in cases where a vulnerable road user is injured or killed because of negligence or as the result of a traffic violation. These laws increase the cost of unsafe practices that impact pedestrians and bicyclists, and provide an incentive for safer driving practices, especially around cyclists and pedestrians. In this way the laws are much like increased fines in work zones, which promote construction worker safety. The below law recognizes that the type of negligence or traffic violations that may result in minor collisions between cars can have disproportionately severe results when a vulnerable road user is involved. The law provide ways to address those divergent results.
Vulnerable Road User Law
Infliction of Serious Injury or Death to Vulnerable Road Users
Section 1. As used herein, the term “vulnerable road user” includes:
(a) a pedestrian, including those persons actually engaged in work upon a highway, or in work upon a highway, or in work upon utility facilities along a highway, or engaged in the provision of emergency services within the right-of-way; or
(b) a person riding an animal; or
(c) a person lawfully operating any of the following on a public right-of-way, crosswalk, or shoulder of the highway:
1. A bicycle;
2. A farm tractor or similar vehicle designed primarily for farm use;
3. A skateboard;
4. Roller skates;
5. In-line skates;
6. A scooter;
7. A moped;
9. Horse-drawn carriage drivers;
10. a person on an electric personal assistive mobility device; or
11. a person in a wheelchair.
Section 2. A person who operates a motor vehicle in a careless or distracted manner and causes serious physical injury or death to a vulnerable road user shall be guilty of infliction of serious physical injury or death to a vulnerable user.
Section 3. A person issued a citation under this section shall be required to attend a hearing before a court of appropriate jurisdiction.
Section 4. A person found to have committed an offense under this statute shall be required to
(a) have his or her driving privileged suspended for a period of no less than 6 months; and one or more of the following:
(b) pay a monetary penalty of not more than two thousand dollars; or
(c) serve a period of incarceration which may not exceed thirty days; or
(d) participate in a motor vehicle accident prevention course; or
(e) perform community service for a number of hours to be determined by the court, which may not exceed two hundred hours.
By signing this petition you are simply asking Florida’s Governor and Legislature to pass a meaningful VRU law similar to the one above. Thank you for taking the time to sign this petition and voice your concern.