Vulnerable User Laws

Vulnerable User Laws in the Region

New York: Hayley and Diego's Law

New York: Elle's Law

Connecticut Vulnerable Users Law (bill)

Not everyone on the road enjoys the protective benefits of steel enclosures, air bags, and horns. These “vulnerable users” (cyclists, pedestrians, and others) are much more likely to be killed or severely injured in a collision with a vehicle. Roads should be safe for all, regardless of whether they happen to be driving. Just as walking or biking unfortunately means accepting some level of risk, choosing to drive should mean accepting some level of responsibility.

But throughout the region, people who drive carelessly and cause injury or death get away with no legal sanction, beyond perhaps a traffic ticket. Why? One reason is that district attorneys have few tools beyond criminally negligent homicide -- which requires meeting an extremely high bar. As one county prosecutor puts it, "Vehicular crimes prosecutors fight an uphill battle every day. Whether we like it or not, a single act of negligence by a driver will not usually be enough to bring charges. Ten or even 20 mph over the speed limit will generally not suffice on its own."

Vulnerable user laws can act as a middle ground between negligent homicide and a traffic citation. They may create a new traffic offense (e.g. "careless driving") or may provide for license suspension in collisions that cause serious injury or death.

Such laws have been passed in four states: Oregon, Illinois, Delaware, and New York. The New York State Legislature passed two laws protecting crash victims in 2010, and a bill has been discussed in the Connecticut state legislature. Tri-State supports the passage of vulnerable user laws in Connecticut and New Jersey and applauds the enactment of Hayley & Diego Law and Elle’s Law in New York.

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