legislative update



legislative update

ON Thursday May 5 the Senate Judiciary Committee heard numerous highway safety bills including S669, the “vulnerable road user” bill that enhances penalties if a careless driver injures or kills a bicyclist or other vulnerable user. Other bills were aimed at limiting hand-held cell phone use while driving, tightening drunk driving controls and penalties and increasing penalties for hit-and-run. All were “held for further study” which means anything can happen depending on what the leadership wants.

Due to a controversial primary sear belt law (supported by public health, AAA and other safety advocates but opposed by some civil rights groups fearing police using it for more racial profiling) S669 wasn’t taken up until about 8:30pm. The sponsor, Senator Sue Sosnoswski, and I spoke for it (I told Lori’s story as part of my testimony) and the ACLU spoke against it, saying the law was unneessary. Matt signed up for it for the NBW and though the Coalition ofr Transportation Choices )CTC) of which RI Bike is a member never took a position, we did gey help from other CTC member groups, notably the American Lung Association that wants to encourage biking and walking to help reduce air pollution, and the Sierra Club which generally suppored all the highway safety bills as part of their complete streets campaign to make the roads safer for all users.

At this point, those wanting to see this bill passed should call their Senators, or the Senate leaders (President Paiva-Weed, Majority Leader Ruggierio, Judciary Chair McCaffrey in particular) and ask for support.


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  • Ibiketowork
    May 8, 2011 at 4:08 am

    obviously the ACLU has never tried running or biking on our roadways….boy, they do a lot of good work but they really missed the bus on this one!

  • Victor
    May 8, 2011 at 9:06 am

    What exactly did the ACLU say? What was their argument?

  • barry
    May 9, 2011 at 7:07 am

    The ACLU opposed the bill (a stretch for a civil liberties group in my opinion) because they felt RI General Law 31-27-1 already covers this situation and having another law would just add confusion. This existing "driving to endanger" law has increasing and serious penalties for injuring, seriously injuring, or killing someone (penalties up to 2 years, 5 years, 10 years in jail respectively) when a motorist is in "reckless disregard for the safety of others."

    I think this is too high a standard for conviction and doesn't apply to careless drivers not taking due care when there are vulnerable road users around. I explicitly said to the Committee we were not looking for jail time for this and S669 does not call for any jail time. As I pointed out, a vulnerable road user is not protecte by a steel cage, seatbelts, airbags and so needs to also be protected from careless drivers (in 5000 or so pound vehciles!) not taking due care who are not criminally deliberately disregarding them.

  • MattyCiii
    Oct 4, 2011 at 2:57 am

    So what's the status of this? Is it dead?

  • msmoritz
    Oct 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

    At the moment, all of the legislation is sitting idle with no hearings or movement imminent. When the fall session begins we'll be trying to get a broader set of support from Dept of Highway Safety, Police, etc and perhaps language updates to address concerns from ACLU and others.