Law Enforcement

Pass a Vulnerable-Users Statute

This is a legislative statute that requires higher penalties for drivers who harm more vulnerable roadway users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. The statute should include a “due care” provision, if one is not already enacted in state law, requiring drivers to look out for and avoid striking vulnerable persons in the roadway.

Guidance
  • Create a campaign to move the statute through the legislative process: Define the problem; develop a statewide coalition; prepare fact sheets; organize news stories, letters, and phone calls to legislators to gather support and sponsors for the proposed legislation; and maintain the political momentum to move the bill through committee, past floor votes in both state houses; and obtain the governor’s signature
  • Seek assistance: State highway safety agencies may provide help and leadership; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can identify best practices
  • Use testimony of families and victims to build legislative support.
  • Build support from diverse stakeholders, e.g., farmers can help if tractor drivers are included as a class of vulnerable roadway users
  • Survey and amend existing statutes, including:
    • Penalties for careless driving
    • Department procedures regarding length of driver’s-license suspensions
    • Trial entry proceedings in non-default cases
    • Provisions of judgment
    • Criteria requiring a defendant appear in court
    •  Admissibility of traffic-offense procedures in subsequent civil actions
  • Consult police officers to insure law is practically enforceable
  • Define and assign new responsibilities like monitoring careless drivers, supervising community service, and tracking fines or license suspensions to agencies, including court systems and district attorney offices
  • Encourage legislative support and agency cooperation by highlighting the law’s safety benefits for children and highway workers
Benefits
  • Better balances punishment to the consequences of negligent driving
  • Encourages cautious driving
  • Provides legal support to injury claims caused by unsafe motorists
Considerations
  • A vulnerable-user bill should not contradict existing statutes and liability arguments
  • Legislation that requires jail time or trial proceedings may overburden a constrained court system
  • Providing professional legal assistance to draft the legislation and committed, multiyear legislative efforts and advocacy to build the political support to pass the bill
Where to Use It
  • Local
  • State
Professional Consensus
  • In the absence of endorsements from national associations or governmental departments, cities are turning to best practices employed by other municipalities
  • Vulnerable User Statutes have passed several state legislatures, though they have faced political resistance in California and Texas
Examples

Vulnerable Roadway User laws have been passed by the following state legislatures:

  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Oregon

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.