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Old 02-06-08, 05:23 PM   #1
terry_mcafee
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Laws to punish errant motorists more?

When a bicyclist is hit by a motorist who is clearly at fault, the cyclist is frequently maimed but the motorist only receives a slap on the wrist in the form of a "failure to yield" citation or similar. Law enforcement has no other option other than to cite the statute paragraph that the motorist violated.

Has any state legislature tried to correct this imbalance?
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Old 02-06-08, 10:16 PM   #2
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The only progress of which I am aware is that New Jersey has started to prosecute sleep-driving, but the other 49 states have yet to follow suit.
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Old 02-06-08, 11:44 PM   #3
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Oregon has a "vulnerable user" law that has enhanced penalties for injuring a cyclist or pedestrian.
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Old 02-07-08, 12:16 AM   #4
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I'd like to see how prosecuting and punishing them properly under the existing laws works before making up new ones.
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Old 02-07-08, 03:44 AM   #5
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I'd like to see how prosecuting and punishing them properly under the existing laws works before making up new ones.
People never seem to get this concept, people always scream for stiffer penalties, more laws, etc. etc., but never realize what Allister has that the current damn ones need to be enforced properly first.
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Old 02-07-08, 07:27 AM   #6
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I would agree that we can start with enforcement of current laws. The local paper here in Maine recently ran a series of articles looking at how there are a very small number of drivers who are responsible for the bulk of the serious crashes. Most of them are driving with suspended licenses. When they are caught - the license suspension is lengthened, and they may be given some token jail time before they are back behind the wheel with the still suspended license.

Many/most of these habitual offenders are drug/alcohol abusers - again, more laws that we have which are not effective.
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Old 02-07-08, 08:49 AM   #7
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I would agree that we can start with enforcement of current laws. The local paper here in Maine recently ran a series of articles looking at how there are a very small number of drivers who are responsible for the bulk of the serious crashes. Most of them are driving with suspended licenses. When they are caught - the license suspension is lengthened, and they may be given some token jail time before they are back behind the wheel with the still suspended license.

Many/most of these habitual offenders are drug/alcohol abusers - again, more laws that we have which are not effective.
Maybe instead of suspending their licenses, the courts should impound their cars. Or, at least place a stiff fine and jail sentence (starting at double the amount of the first offense) for each violation, with the penalties increasing with each repeat offense. At some point, the driver will either a) go broke, b) spend several years in jail and/or c) get a %[email protected]!$^$ clue.
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Old 02-07-08, 08:50 AM   #8
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I can endorse giving priority to proper enforcement of existing laws, but too often the prescribed penalty is too light to have any effect.
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Old 02-07-08, 09:11 AM   #9
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I'd like to see how prosecuting and punishing them properly under the existing laws works before making up new ones.
I'll second that point but add that it's just too dern easy for the young, incompetent, senile and just plain stupid to get and keep an operators license.

Roll all your other complaints into a big ball (no public transportation, dangerous drivers, pollution, carnage on the highways, pick your favorite, ad nauseum) and it ultimately leads back to putting too many people that shouldn't be driving, on the road as vehicle operators in the first place.
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Old 02-07-08, 10:47 AM   #10
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When the laws are applied, you get what the OP complained about, "Failure to yield" and a slap on the wrist. For whatever reasons, police and DAs are just not going to prosecute anything harsher like attempted manslaughter or assault. Apparently they have their reasons, and even if they don't, there's still room for legislation that falls somewhere between failure to yield and homicide. I'd seriously get behind special laws for harsh penalties when a right of way violation leads to injury or death... for any vehicle. Meaning inclusive of bikes, pedestrians, and even motorcycles and other cars.

When grandma gets hit with a mandatory $5000 fine and a month in jail for left-hooking a bike, you can bet that drivers will start making a better effort to "see" us...

I think I'll talk to my local State Rep about this...

(Note: Now is not the time to call your state Rep. They have already forwarded what bills they want considered by the legislature as part of the routine annual process. If you contact them now, they will most likely have to wait until next Dec/Jan to submit a new proposal. You might get more traction if you contact them regarding such a proposal in the Fall. Wouldn't hurt to call their office and talk things over about the idea and timing right now...)
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Old 02-07-08, 11:14 AM   #11
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If harsh laws are passed which specifically favor cyclists and pedestrians, and, they are enforced, one can expect that cyclist and pedestrian behavior will come under greater scrutiny as well. Enforcement of existing laws applied to motorists and cyclists seems he better option, rather than a tit for tat excalation as voters who drive begin to bring pressure on the legislature.
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Old 02-07-08, 11:27 AM   #12
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I'd like to see how prosecuting and punishing them properly under the existing laws works before making up new ones.
So true. Enough laws exist everywhere to appropriately punish killer drivers.
There just isn't enough pressure right now for the right prosecution.
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Old 02-07-08, 11:30 AM   #13
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[snip]

When grandma gets hit with a mandatory $5000 fine and a month in jail for left-hooking a bike, you can bet that drivers will start making a better effort to "see" us...

[snip]
Without disputing what you say one bit, I would offer these two facts:

1) The vast majority of the automobile drivers that survive a crash with a bicyclist claim they did not see the cyclist.

2) The vast majority of the automobile drivers that survive a crash with a train claim they did not see the train.

Even when the penalty is almost always certain death, some people have trouble operating a vehicle safely. It is possible that increasing the size of the penalty will not have the desired effect for the folks that are actually the problem.

What steps can be taken to address the underlying problem?
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Old 02-07-08, 12:35 PM   #14
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When grandma gets hit with a mandatory $5000 fine and a month in jail for left-hooking a bike, you can bet that drivers will start making a better effort to "see" us...
But I doubt that'll even happen. In VA they came up with Abusive Driver laws that put big fines on things like reckless driving. They messed up and only made them apply to VA residents,which is now prolly going to get them abolished for legal reasons,but many people were complaining that they were just a money-making scheme. One woman interviewed said this because she got hit with AD penalties three times. If she got popped for things bad enough to rate AD fines,in one year,she doesn't need to be on the road. We also have folks in the local area complaining about speed/red light cameras. They just don't get it. Drive safe/sane,you don't have to worry about penalties.
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Old 02-07-08, 12:46 PM   #15
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I would agree that we can start with enforcement of current laws. The local paper here in Maine recently ran a series of articles looking at how there are a very small number of drivers who are responsible for the bulk of the serious crashes. Most of them are driving with suspended licenses. When they are caught - the license suspension is lengthened, and they may be given some token jail time before they are back behind the wheel with the still suspended license.

Many/most of these habitual offenders are drug/alcohol abusers - again, more laws that we have which are not effective.
Bolding mine.

I'll go with a change here. License gets suspended if you are caught driving there better be someone in labor or bleeding in hte car otherwise you are going to jail (hmm how about for the rest of the suspension period). And make sure the judge tells them and makes them repeat it back. Seriously that is a part of fairness and effectiveness. When the rules get tightened up make sure everyone knows it. The ones with half a brain will listen, the others will get what they deserve.
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Old 02-07-08, 12:51 PM   #16
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So true. Enough laws exist everywhere to appropriately punish killer drivers.
There just isn't enough pressure right now for the right prosecution.
So the prosecutor in Champaign, IL seemed to say just the opposite. She was throwing up her hands and saying there was nothing she could reasonably pursue in charging the "ringtone killer" for accidentally swerving into and killing a bicyclist while downloading ringtones. Shy of "provable intent to harm", she had only minor traffic violations to choose from.
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Old 02-07-08, 01:10 PM   #17
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So the prosecutor in Champaign, IL seemed to say just the opposite. She was throwing up her hands and saying there was nothing she could reasonably pursue in charging the "ringtone killer" for accidentally swerving into and killing a bicyclist while downloading ringtones. Shy of "provable intent to harm", she had only minor traffic violations to choose from.
That sounds like "reckless driving" or at least "distracted driving"
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Old 02-07-08, 01:14 PM   #18
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I agree that wreckless drivers who endanger cyclist should be held responsible for their actions.

One thing I am worried about, is that stiffer penalties would increase the number of hit and runs. Therefore, we would have teh opposite effect of what we are after.
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Old 02-07-08, 02:04 PM   #19
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That sounds like "reckless driving" or at least "distracted driving"
Jennifer Stark was charged with improper lane usage after killing Matt Wilhelm. Small fine.
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Old 02-08-08, 04:57 AM   #20
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Motorist collides with ped/cyclist: Minimum $50,000 fine/3 Mos. jail time/permanent loss of vehicle/loss of driving privileges for one year.

Motorist collides with ped/cyclist & injures: Minimum $100,000 fine with 6 Mos. jail time/permanent loss of vehicle/loss of driving privileges for 5 years.

Motorist collides with ped/cyclist & kills: Minimum $500,000 fine with 5 Years prison time/permanent loss of vehicle/permanent loss of driving privileges. (If caught driving after this, life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole.)

Circumstances irrelevant except to INCREASE the penaties. (Under ANY & ALL conditions - including ped/cyclist "fault" - these penalties would apply as MANDATORY MINIMUMS.)

This - and only this -will change motorist behavior.
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Old 02-08-08, 07:00 AM   #21
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"Give us some ammunition-some teeth in the law."
There was an article from Bicycling magazine posted here not to long ago that covers several bicycle/car incidents and mentions some of the difficulties prosecutors have in the courts dealing with inattentive drivers. One problem is that in criminal cases the prosecution has to show "intent".

Quote:
"When the intent is not there to kill or harm someone, the offenses aren't there to prosecute"
So I don't think it's that the laws aren't being enforced. Law makers are going to have to come up with a way around the "intent" requirement. That's going to be difficult because because all defense attorneys are going to be screaming about loss of civil rights as that could potentially affect all criminal cases. I think that it could be limited to roadway situations because we currently have a drivers license requirement and that could be reinterpreted there; that drivers would now have implied consent to having the burden of proof on themselves and that failure to be alert is in effect intent to be not alert.

Anyways here's a link to the article. It's fairly long (12 pages) and heartbreaking. It starts half way down the page where it says. "BY ALMOST ANY MEASURE".

http://www.bicycling.com/article/1,6...6637-1,00.html
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Old 02-08-08, 07:34 AM   #22
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I can endorse giving priority to proper enforcement of existing laws, but too often the prescribed penalty is too light to have any effect.
While I want to agree, it seems to me that the current laws have "intent" as one of their clauses... what if the motorist did not intend, but was just careless?

How do we ask motorists to simply be more careful?

It seems to me that lack of intent issue is what shifts these incidents into "accident" status where the authorities simply state: "the motorist is distraught and sorry... "
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Old 02-08-08, 07:54 AM   #23
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It's a tough one to figure out. I agree there has to be room for "accident" since really most of them are just that. But there also needs to be room for "reckless behavior" (the ringtone killer, they guy who killed our own forum member (sydney) veering into bike lane while texting). Since criminal intent is almost never involved it may not be reasonable to attach criminal prosecution. But serious fines and lengthy loss of license is definitely an option (poetic justice if the perp is forced to ride a bicycle instead of drive a car).
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Old 02-08-08, 08:42 AM   #24
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It's a tough one to figure out. I agree there has to be room for "accident" since really most of them are just that. But there also needs to be room for "reckless behavior" (the ringtone killer, they guy who killed our own forum member (sydney) veering into bike lane while texting). Since criminal intent is almost never involved it may not be reasonable to attach criminal prosecution. But serious fines and lengthy loss of license is definitely an option (poetic justice if the perp is forced to ride a bicycle instead of drive a car).
But in the case of "accident," isn't it really a case of "not making the effort." Isn't for instance "I didn't see him" really a case of "I didn't really look?" Most of the current laws have no provision for "sloppiness" on the part of the motorist... "accidents" are acceptable for most motoring situations, as motor vehicles can accept some minor bumps while still protecting the occupants... whereas a "fender bender" to a cyclist can be quite harmful.

Perhaps in lieu of the "hard shell" that motorists have (the car body), laws should be shifted in a manner to protect cyclists and pedestrians in much the same manner that some European countries have established laws specifically protecting cyclists.
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Old 02-08-08, 08:51 AM   #25
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But in the case of "accident," isn't it really a case of "not making the effort." Isn't for instance "I didn't see him" really a case of "I didn't really look?" Most of the current laws have no provision for "sloppiness" on the part of the motorist... "accidents" are acceptable for most motoring situations, as motor vehicles can accept some minor bumps while still protecting the occupants... whereas a "fender bender" to a cyclist can be quite harmful.

Perhaps in lieu of the "hard shell" that motorists have (the car body), laws should be shifted in a manner to protect cyclists and pedestrians in much the same manner that some European countries have established laws specifically protecting cyclists.
I agree and I like the logic here. The cost of being sloppy should be commensurate to the potential damage.
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