Protect GA's vulnerable road users
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There are far too many disturbing incidents of motorists injuring or killing other road users with apparent impunity. Georgia needs legislation that 1) recognizes the vulnerability of non-motorized road users and 2) creates meaningful penalties for motorists who injure or kill those road users.
In May of this year, 26-year old Laura Quade of Decatur was waiting to turn left when she was struck from behind by an inattentive motorist. Despite her serious injuries, the motorist “was cited for following too closely… Decatur Police said there are no other charges pending.” For nearly paralyzing or killing this young woman on a bicycle, the driver will be fined $200.
In early June, an enraged Atlanta motorist intentionally chased, hit, and dragged a bicyclist along the ground for 50 feet, causing the man grievous injuries. Shouldn’t such a motorist face serious repercussions for this aggressive action?
Georgia experienced a 54% increase in bicyclist fatalities from 2011-2012 and a 37% increase from 2012-2013. Pedestrian fatalities are also on the rise, and hit-and-run incidents against pedestrians are distressingly commonplace. Clearly, this is an issue Georgia needs to address.
In the 2013-2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly, Senate Bill 116 was introduced “to increase the penalty for homicide by vehicle in the second degree from a misdemeanor to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.” The bill passed the state Senate but failed to make it out of a House committee for a vote. Georgia’s lawmakers should re-introduce this bill with modifications that define vulnerable road users and expand penalties to acts that cause injury as well as death.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, six states – Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington – have Vulnerable Road User laws that define a particular set of road users, including highway maintenance crews, law enforcement officers, motorcyclists, and people on bicycles, as “vulnerable” and provide specific processes and penalties for motorists who injure or kill those users. The District of Columbia and 17 other states in some way address vulnerable road users by prohibiting certain actions — such as harassment or the throwing of objects — or by providing the ability for persons to be charged with greater penalties when their actions result in the injury or death of a vulnerable road user.
I call on you to sponsor or support a strong Vulnerable Road User bill that will protect Georgia’s emergency responders, road crews, bicyclists, pedestrians and other road users who are at greater risk of serious injury or death from reckless and inattentive drivers.
Below is the text of a model VRU bill, which should be adopted to amend Code Section 40-6-394 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
Thank you for your time and support of a Vulnerable Road User law in Georgia.
TEXT OF MODEL LEGISLATION
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 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.
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.
A person issued a citation under this section shall be required to attend a hearing before a court of appropriate jurisdiction.
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.
Georgia Department of Transportation, Office of Traffic Safety and Operations, TRAQS Team
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394
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