The state Senate approved a bill this afternoon that stiffens the penalties levied against reckless drivers who strike bicyclists, pedestrians, highway workers and other “vulnerable users” of the road.
The measure, which was approved unanimously, stipulates that any driver who fails to exercise “reasonable care” on a public road and causes the injury or death of a “vulnerable user” may be fined up to $1,000. The offending driver would also be required to attend a retraining program. The new fines would be in addition to any existing applicable criminal penalties.
“This is really an issue of public safety,” said Sen. Beth Bye, a strong supporter of the measure. The Democrat from West Hartford often bikes to the Capitol.
“I can tell you it’s not safe right now, it’s absolutely not safe,” Bye said. “Cars buzz you. They basically think why are you in their way.”
Bye notes that many roads lack bike lanes and those that do often disappear in intersections.
The proposal defines “vulnerable users” as cyclists, pedestrians, those on horseback, skateboarders and rollerbladers and people who use wheelchairs.
The bill does not put the entire onus on drivers; it requires that cyclists and other vulnerable users to show “reasonable care.”
“It makes sure the bicyclists have some responsibility too,” Bye said, ”because it’s not a driver’s fault if a bike is riding the wrong way on the street at 2 in the morning with no lights.”
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said increasing numbers of his constituents are biking and walking.
With that, he said, comes growing concerns about safety. “This bill will provide…a marker that the road needs to be shared and that there has to be a greater concern by everyone for all of the different types of users who are on the road.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.