LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source)Michigan lawmakers are taking steps to enhance road safety by implementing stricter penalties for drivers who injure cyclists, runners, and other vulnerable road users. This move, driven by the desire for greater accountability on the roads, passed the House on June 4 and now awaits Senate approval.

Lawmakers argue that tougher penalties are essential for protecting those who share the roads with motor vehicles, and the bipartisan bills aim to help prosecutors charge motorists who harm vulnerable users.

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According to Bridge Michigan, this initiative is partly inspired by a tragic 2016 crash in Kalamazoo County, where a driver killed five cyclists and injured four more. Although the driver, Charles Pickett Jr., was sentenced to decades in prison for murder, many feel that justice remains elusive for other victims.

The new bills propose a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $7,500 for drivers who seriously injure non-drivers using the road. This contrasts with the current law, which can impose up to 15 years for hitting someone operating farming equipment.

In addition, the proposed laws would introduce a new felony for causing serious injury through a moving violation, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The House bills, which passed with votes of 79-29 and 78-30, define “vulnerable transportation devices” as any non-motorized or motorized means of transport, including bicycles and wheelchairs. 

The League of Michigan Bicyclists strongly supports the legislation. Matt Penniman, their communications and advocacy director, told Bridge Michigan that the legislation is “an important part of a culture change that will one day end road deaths in Michigan.”

Not everyone is on board, however. Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale), voiced concerns over the bills’ lack of nuance for less severe violations and situations where the vulnerable user might have been at fault. 

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Fink is hopeful that Senate amendments might resolve discrepancies and lead to broader support for the bills, according to Bridge Michigan. 

With 3,373 pedestrians killed in early 2023, these bills give the Senate much to consider regarding improved road safety in Michigan.