Could Vulnerable User Laws Help Protect Pedestrians?

Pedestrian deaths in San Diego are at an all-time high. Between 2011 and 2012, pedestrian fatalities more than doubled from 11 deaths to 23.

Drivers in California and many other states may not face any criminal charges for a fatal accident, outside of traffic violations like “failure to yield” and “reckless driving.” Some district attorneys can make a case for criminally negligent homicide, but only if drugs or alcohol were involved.

Circulate San Diego, an activist group for pedestrians and cyclists, is petitioning the city to make it easier for communities to request crosswalks. The current procedure was developed in 1990, based on the idea that crosswalks should be few and far between to keep pedestrians from developing “a false sense of security.”

Most studies show that pedestrians are safest when they use crosswalks and sidewalks, but some critics argue that they make little difference. More than 7,500 pedestrians were injured in car accidents between January 2001 and December 2012, and at least 50 percent of those accidents happened in crosswalks.

Pedestrians are more vulnerable than any other traveler on the road. Collisions frequently lead to serious injury or death, so transportation officials are left with the question: if crosswalks do not work, how do we protect pedestrians from reckless drivers?

Some states are turning to the law to punish negligent motorists. Oregon, Illinois, Delaware and New York have all implemented “vulnerable user” laws to help protect bicyclists and pedestrians.

What Are Vulnerable User Laws?

Vulnerable User Laws protect cyclists and pedestrians by providing stricter penalties for motorists who cause fatal accidents. The law applies when a negligent, but not criminal, traffic error leads to death or serious injury.

These laws can act as a middle ground between negligent homicide and a traffic citation. Under the Vulnerable User Law, a judge can suspend a driver’s license for up to 90 days, assign driving education courses or require relevant community service.

Vulnerable User Laws are just one step in protecting cyclists and pedestrians, but California has yet to pass one. Until they do, reckless drivers could pay as little as $200 for a fatal accident.

The laws may make it difficult for police to prosecute reckless drivers, but victims only need to prove negligence to support a personal injury lawsuit. If a reckless driver caused your injuries, call Bonnici Law Group today for your free consultation. Our experienced attorneys can help hold them accountable and make sure you are fairly compensated for your injuries.

[Did You Know: The term “vulnerable roadway user” was first used by European safety organizations to describe non-motorized roadway users.]

Bonnici Law Group, APC – San Diego Personal Injury Attorneys