What is the appropriate penalty for killing a person with a car? Through practically any other method, causing a death due to negligence would be cause for a manslaughter charge. But currently, causing a death through negligent driving typically results in a simple traffic ticket. That is not right.
Thus, the Vulnerable Users Bill is headed back to Olympia to try again. Cascade has declared the bill their highest priority. There is a hearing in Oly this Friday, and Cascade will help you get there via carpool if you need a ride:
The Vulnerable User Bill is our top priority this year, and it is scheduled for a hearing on Friday, Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m. in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Please join us if you can and sign in favor of the bill. Please RSVP by email and let us know if you would like to join a carpool, and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Last year, the bill got pretty far and came “within minutes” of making it to the Senate floor for debate. Hopefully it makes it all the way this year. It is hard to think of reasons to argue against this bill, especially considering how many people die while walking in this city (let alone the state).
Julia Cechvala wrote a great piece about the Vulnerable Users Bill last year for Real Change. Here’s an excerpt:
Emily Fischer did not expect herself to be advocating for traffic safety, but now she is. This summer Fischer’s close friend, Cary Girod, was struck and killed while bicycling on a state highway outside of the southwest Washington town of Raymond. After driving out from Massachusetts and celebrating the Fourth of July with Fischer, Girod and her boyfriend left on a bike trip. They were riding on the shoulder of State Highway 105, wearing bright clothing, in full daylight, when a van traveling at around 55 miles per hour crossed over the white line.
Her boyfriend was injured but remained conscious, while Girod was in much worse shape. The next time Fischer saw Girod she was unrecognizable, lying in a hospital bed at Harborview.
When one person’s actions kill another, even if unintentionally, the public generally expects serious consequences: a charge of manslaughter, loss of a job, suspension of a license or jail time. In Washington state however, when a driver through basic negligence hits and seriously injures or kills a pedestrian or bicyclist, he or she can expect only a traffic ticket.