Vulnerable User Bill Introduced in Senate - SB 5326

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PROTECTING VULNERABLE ROADWAY USERS
Cascade Bicycle Club seeks passage of Vulnerable User Bill

WASHINGTON STATE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HEARING ON FRIDAY, JAN. 21

SEATTLE, JANUARY 20, 2011 – On Friday, January 21, 2011 the Washington state Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 5326 (House Bill 1339), also known as the Vulnerable User Bill. This legislation would increase the penalty for drivers who commit traffic offenses that cause the serious injury or death of a pedestrian, bicyclist or other vulnerable roadway user.

More than 150 pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and farm equipment operators are gravely injured or killed in Washington state each year by negligent drivers who have broken traffic laws. Currently most of these offending drivers face only a mail-in traffic fine that in many cases is as low as $49. The Vulnerable User Bill, if passed, would impose steeper penalties.

Cascade Bicycle Club (Cascade) has advocated for passage of the Vulnerable User Bill since 2009. Last year the legislation came within minutes of a vote on the Senate floor before it died—not for lack of necessary votes, but because time ran out at a critical cutoff. Cascade’s advocacy director David Hiller believes that the bill has enough momentum to pass in 2011.

“In 2009 we met with families and survivors who wanted to know that people who were driving negligently and who took the lives of their loved ones weren’t going to get away with just a ticket,” Hiller said. “This bill is in response to their request for justice.”

The bill was introduced to the Senate Thursday morning by Sen. Adam Kline (D-37) and is co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph Zarelli (R-18) and others. Freshman Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) introduced the House bill, along with Rep. Mike Hope (R-44), who is also an officer of the Seattle Police Department.

Under the law, a driver committing a traffic infraction—such as speeding, texting while driving or running a red light—that results in the serious injury or death of a vulnerable roadway user would face an automatic fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges. To mitigate the above penalties, the offender could request a court hearing and, per judicial discretion, pay a $250 fine, complete a traffic safety course and perform up to 100 hours of community service related to driver improvement and public education about traffic safety.

Cascade stresses that the bill does not establish a criminal offense. It simply increases the penalty for driving offenses that lead to tragic outcomes for vulnerable users.

The legislation defines vulnerable users as pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, highway workers, skaters/rollerskaters/rollerbladers, people on scooters and people in wheelchairs or on farm equipment.

Many of the attendees at Friday’s hearing will be family members or victims of tragic crashes.

Vulnerable User Bill
(Senate Bill 5326, House Bill 1339)

Washington State Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
Friday, January 21, 2011
1:30 p.m.
Cherberg Senate Building, Senate Hearing Room 1
Olympia, WA

Cascade Bicycle Club requests that those interested in attending the hearing RSVP by emailing organizer@cascadebicycleclub.org. The group is especially interested in attendees who have been victims or are family members of a victim of negligent driving who were vulnerable users at the time of the traffic incident. Attendees may join Cascade in conference room 236 of the Cherberg building at 1 p.m. to prepare for the hearing.

Citizens may send an email urging their senators to support the Vulnerable User Bill (SB 5326) by visiting www.tinyurl.com/vulnerableuser.

About Cascade Bicycle Club:

Founded in 1970, Cascade Bicycle Club is a 13,000+ member, nonprofit organization based in Seattle, Washington, serving more than half a million cyclists in the Puget Sound community. The club is operated by a volunteer Board of Directors, more than 20 professional staff, and thousands of volunteers and is the largest organization of its kind in the United States. More information about Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy, commute and education programs is available online at www.cascade.org or by calling (206) 522-3222.

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MEDIA CONTACT

David Hiller, Advocacy Director
Cascade Bicycle Club
206-227-0006
david.hiller@cascadebicycleclub.org