Good news for the Vulnerable User Bill in Olympia! After a successful hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the bill will have a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee next Thursday, Feb.3, at 10am. Please email us if you can make it down to Olympia and sign in favor or testify. Here’s a link to video of the first hearing, beginning 31 minutes in.
The Vulnerable User Bill has undergone several changes from its original version two years ago. SB 5326 and HB 1339 are this year’s bill numbers in the Senate and House. This bill will fill the gap between a simple traffic ticket and a crime. It creates greater penalties for negligent drivers who maim or kill pedestrians, bicyclists and others, and it will reinforce the need to be more careful when driving around vulnerable people. The bill:
• Defines the Vulnerable Roadway User concept
• Amends Negligent Driving 2, an infraction, which imposes a $250 fine
• Makes the negligent driver pay a fine of between $1000 and $5000 and suspends his or her driving privileges for 90 days, — OR — The driver can reduce the fine back down to $250 by appearing in court, completing a traffic safety course and performing up to 100 hours of community service
• The bill requires that the community service and traffic safety course be completed within one year, or the court will impose the larger fine and license suspension
Community service and court appearances are not mandatory for infractions in Washington, only for crimes, so the driver may choose to pay the larger fine rather than perform community service. The fine should be set high enough that the driver is compelled to appear in court and reduce the fine. These and other procedural issues have led to growing support for the bill, from law enforcement officers to public defenders. You can read an updated fact sheet here.
In the Senate hearing, we heard moving testimony from victims who were seriously injured and family members of bicyclists and pedestrians who were killed by negligent drivers. Members of the committee from both parties expressed strong support for increasing the penalty for drivers, and we expect that they will advance the bill forward. But there are still many hurdles to clear! Here are three ways you can help:
1. Ask your Representative to support House Bill 1339. Click here to send an email to your Representative if he or she is on the House Judiciary Committee and ask him or her to support HB 1339. We have the continued guidance and support of a diverse group of stakeholders – including law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, and others but your message is vital in making this bill state law. Note that this form will work only if your representative is not yet a bill sponsor.
2. Come to a hearing in Olympia. HB 1339 is scheduled for a public hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, February 3, at 10am in the John L. O’Brien Building (JLOB), Hearing Room A. Please join Cascade Bicycle Club and safe roadway advocates from around the state to support the Vulnerable User Bill. Many of the hearing attendees will be family members or victims of tragic crashes, and they will need our support. Cascade is helping to organize carpools, so if you want to attend and need a ride, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
3. Be a lobbyist for a day at Transportation Advocacy Day. On Thursday, February 10, Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices Coalition, and many other organizations will gather and lobby in person for legislation that protects and provides funding for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. Sign up on the Transportation Choices Coalition website and come join us.