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February 23, 2010 at 10:24 PM

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Bill promoted by bicyclists fails to make the cut, again

Posted by Lillian Tucker

This will not be the year that increases penalties on drivers who greatly harm or kill cyclists, pedestrians or other so-called "vulnerable" users.

Senate Bill 5838 sought to close the punitive gap in these complicated traffic cases.

Current law does not provide stiffer penalties when negligent driving results in the death or substantial injury of a "vulnerable" user. SB 5838 would have taken the pedestrian's injury into account, and allowed tougher punishment for the driver. A mandatory court appearance, traffic-safety school and community service would have been added to the traffic infraction.

Non-budget-related bills had until 5 p.m. last Tuesday to be voted out of their chamber of origin. The Vulnerable Users Bill did not make it.

"People were furiously working the bill," said David Hiller, advocacy director for Cascade Bicycle Club. "There were some contentious and controversial legislative efforts that ate up a lot of the calendar and there just wasn't enough time to get it done."

Had it not died just as it reached the last order of consideration, the legislation -- which also was attempted last year -- may have had a chance. Its sponsor, Sen. Joe McDermott, D-West Seattle, said that by his count, the bill had the votes.

"They have done an excellent job working the bill in the last two years," said McDermott. Compromises were made to ensure that drivers, whose negligence results in the death or great bodily harm of a "vulnerable user," be held accountable without criminalizing the act.

McDermott will not be back next year, but said he will encourage everyone he can to keep up the fight and expects the bill will make it to the governor's desk on the next go-around.

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