Indiana advocates push for new protections for ‘Vulnerable Road Users’
Cyclists in Indiana are pushing for new protections on the road, and are urging lawmakers to pass a bill which would ensure drivers who injure or kill vulnerable road users face legal repercussions.
According to the Indiana Public Policy Institute, from 2015 to 2019, nearly 4,300 Indiana cyclists and more than 8,800 pedestrians were involved in vehicle collisions.
Summer Keown, interim managing director of the group Bicycle Indiana, said drivers in those cases often are not properly penalized.
“If there’s alcohol involved, that’s one thing,” Keown stated. “But if it’s simply the result of reckless driving, we just don’t see it being prosecuted quite as much, or we don’t see those folks even necessarily losing their licenses after things like that happen.”
Among others, the bill would categorize cyclists, pedestrians, road workers and farmers operating tractors as vulnerable road users. Injuring anyone in the category would carry a maximum one-year jail sentence and up to a $5,000 fine, and killing someone in the category would entail a maximum two-and-a-half years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Per the Public Policy Institute, pedestrian and cyclist traffic deaths in Indiana were on the decline from 2018 to 2019. Keown acknowledged while there is no cyclist or pedestrian injury data available for 2020 or 2021, she estimated the numbers likely did not improve, pointing to a nationwide increase in deadly driving and fatal car accidents during the pandemic.
“We see reports every single week of cyclists and pedestrians being hit and badly injured or killed,” Keown observed.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated more than 20,100 people died in car crashes in the first half of 2021, up more than 18% from the same period in 2020.
The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law committee for further deliberation.