LANSING, Mich. (July 1, 2021) — Sens. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) and Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), along with Reps. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) and Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), introduced bipartisan legislation this week that would protect vulnerable road users in Michigan.
Senate Bills 580 (McCann) and 581 (McBroom), and House Bills 5181 (Kahle) and 5182 (Rogers) would create enhanced penalties for drivers who injure or kill a vulnerable roadway user, such as cyclists, pedestrians, or wheelchair users.
“Historically, Michigan law has specifically placed little to no burden on drivers who injure non-motorized users, with the victim often having to prove the event took place due to severe negligence,” Sen. McCann said. “It should be expected that road users would face consequences should their reckless actions result in the injury or death of another person, however that’s currently not the case. We need to do a better job of protecting Michiganders exploring all our state has to offer, and this legislation aims to do just that.”
Recently, preliminary data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that pedestrian deaths by car crashes increased 21% in 2020. Additionally, at a national level, the overall number of traffic incidents and pedestrian fatalities increased 53% in the period between 2009-2018.
“Bicycles have rights to utilize our Michigan roadways just as motorized vehicles,” Sen. McBroom said. “We need to ensure that the roads are safe for all operators and that statutes are clear so safe interactions between cyclists and motorists are outlined.”
Reporting by Outside magazine has shown that in 2020, more than 675 cyclists were killed in automobile-related accidents in the U.S. The deadliest year for cyclists and pedestrians across America since 1990 was just a few years ago. Sadly, 857 riders lost their lives in 2018.
Closer to home, and just a few weeks ago on May 12, a 61-year-old bicyclist was hit and killed by a car in Oshtemo Twp. during the 10th annual Kalamazoo Area Bike Week.
“As a fellow cyclist and practicing physical therapist, I know just how important movement is to our mental and physical health. Bicycling is part of a healthy lifestyle, and I am proud to be from the bike friendly community of Kalamazoo,” Rep. Rogers said. “Unfortunately, even Kalamazoo has experienced its share of bicycling-related tragedies. In 2016, nine cyclists were hit by a person driving a truck while riding together near Markin Glen Park. Five of the cyclists were killed, and the other four were seriously injured and hospitalized. Earlier this year, a 61-year-old man was killed in a crash on West KL Avenue, near the location where a runner was previously hit and killed. These heartbreaking instances prove that we need to do more to protect our vulnerable roadway users and I am proud to be part of this package to do just that.”
In 2018, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Technical Assessment Team, released a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program Assessment that outlined a list of priority recommendations — similar to changes being offered by this legislative package.
“Riding a bike is a healthy and fun activity, however, cyclist and pedestrian auto-related fatalities have substantially increased over the past ten years,” Rep. Kahle said. “Many of these horrific accidents are avoidable, especially when caused by distracted driving. We can do better here in Michigan and this plan helps make sure we do.”
“Everyone deserves the choice to bike or walk safely. We already have increased penalties in Michigan for drivers who hit and kill road workers, and these bills follow the same principle of deterrence. We strongly support them as a part of the solution to make our roads safer for people who walk, bike, and roll,” said John Lindenmayer, Executive Director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Senate Bills 580 and 581 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and House Bills 5181 and 5182 have been referred to the House Committee on Transportation.