Representatives Brett Miller, a Republican from Lancaster County; and Mary Jo Daley, a Democrat from Narberth in Montgomery County; introduced HB1536 in late May. It now awaits action by the House Transportation Committee.
This bill is one of the four safety bills that the Bicycle Coalition, Vision Zero Alliance and Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia have called for in order to achieve Vision Zero in Philadelphia and save lives throughout Pennsylvania.
For State Rep Daley, it’s personal. Her niece Erin was killed by a driver on Lehigh Avenue during her internship at Temple University Hospital in 2016. She and her sister, Liz (Erin’s mom), have since joined Families For Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia to help advocate for safer streets throughout the region.
In the case of last year’s crash that killed Julian Angelucci, the driver was not charged with homicide by vehicle and it is not known if they were charged with careless or reckless driving. In either case, she would only have had to pay $200 or $500 if she had been. The “non-charging” of drivers who kill vulnerable users was the subject of a report by the Bicycle Coalition and Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia released in February 2019.
HB1536 bill does four important things.
1) It defines a “vulnerable highway user” as a pedestrian or person on: a self-propelled device (a bicycle or skateboard, for example.), an auxiliary powered transportation vehicle, an animal (horseback rider), an animal-drawn vehicle (Amish buggy) or farm vehicle.
2) Anyone convicted of “careless” driving can have their license suspended for one year (instead of six months)
3) Drivers must give all vulnerable highway users four feet of passage (not only bicyclists)
4) Increases fines for causing death, serious and bodily injury of vulnerable highway users by careless and reckless driving.
- Drivers who cause death, serious and bodily injury by reckless driving who are convicted of a first degree misdemeanor. Reckless driving includes speeding, driving without a license, driving while impaired or performing an illegal maneuver.
- Death = a fine of $10,000 (instead of $200)
- Serious bodily injury = a fine of $5,000 (instead of $200)
- Bodily injury = a fine of $1,000 (instead of $200)
- Drivers who cause unintentional death, serious and bodily injury by careless driving. Careless driving is defined as someone who drives with careless disregard for safety of persons or property.
- Unintentional death = a fine of up to $5000 (instead of $500)
- Unintentional serious bodily injury = a fine of up to $2500 (instead of $250)
- Unintentional bodily injury = a fine of up to $500
This actually seems OK, perhaps even a noble step forward. It does seem to apply only to crashes where the driver if the car truly acted inappropriately. So different from much of the harsh rhetoric and too much in the concept of Vision Zero that seems to blame all such crashes on drivers and nearly all on speed when the causes are actually far more complex and diverse.
A fine is payable to the Commonwealth. Why is a larger fine an appropriate response, rather than restitution to the victim or victim’s family? (I assume here an ability to pay, of course. Imposing fines, costs and restitution on defendants who are unable to pay serves no good purpose other than to drive the poor deeper into financial desperation, or lead judges to send people to jail for not paying, which is obviously improper.)
Good question for the General Assembly! This section of Title 75 applies to when the state prosecutes a defendant of committing a crime. The level of the fine is set as a deterrent and to make clear the serious of the crime. Victim can pursue legal action in civil court to seek damages for medical costs, pain and suffering and loss of wages.
When passed into law, these details MUST be well publicized to the public; otherwise, these laws punish the offender after the fact, but do not help in prevention. Also, in addition to the fines, which many people won’t pay because they have no money, community service should be included.
I have worked in traffic safety as a private citizen for more than 35 years. I originated the “live-stop” law in Philadelphia:drivers without a valid license or valid registration get more than just tickets—their cars get impounded on the spot! Also, some drunken driver laws have been enhanced through my efforts.
Feel free to write to State Representative Brett Miller with your thoughts about his bill.
Thank you for your service!
Sarah, Restitution to victims is a standard part of sentencing in criminal cases in PA. It is granted to save victims the hassle and expense of having to bring a civil suit. There is no evidence in criminal justice research to support the intuition that a higher maximum fine (or longer jail term, for that matter) actually works to deter better. All the research indicates that the only thing that deters is the belief that you will get caught and charged if you engage in the illegal conduct. Increased severity of potential punishment has little or no marginal impact. Do you know of good data to the contrary?
I have a few concerns here:
1.What if the roadway engineering is so bad that it makes normal drivers into violators?
2.What if a vulnerable road user breaks the law or does something wrong to cause a crash?
3.Sometimes things happen, so do we allow for that, or must we throw the book at everyone?