The "Vulnerable User Bill" or SB 5326 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January with only one vote against it. This bill would create a tougher infraction for drivers whose violation of traffic laws results in the death or substantial bodily injury of a pedestrian, bicyclist or any other "vulnerable" roadway user.
According to the Cascade Bicycle Club, which has strongly advocated the bill since 2009, reports that more than 150 pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and farm equipment operators are seriously 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.
If the bill passes, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and a 90-day suspension of driving priveleges would automatically be placed on a driver if they commit a traffic infraction (running a red light, texting or talking while driving, speeding etc.) that causes serious injury or death of a vulnerable roadway user, like a pedestrian or bicyclist. The offender may mitigate the above penalties by attending a court hearing, pay a $250 fine and complete a traffic safety course with an additional 100 hours of community service related to driver improvement and education about traffic safety.
Supporters of bill have cut down the cost of the bill from $175,000 to $44,000 and the cutoff date to see it passed through the Senate is February 28, 2011.