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.

  • 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
  • Better balances punishment to the consequences of negligent driving
  • Encourages cautious driving
  • Provides legal support to injury claims caused by unsafe motorists
  • 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

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.