Wisconsin panel discusses bill to protect 'vulnerable highway users'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/12/2013

A bill under review at the Wisconsin statehouse would protect the most vulnerable people on roadways around the state.

The Assembly Transportation Committee met to discuss a bill that would increase the punishment for drivers who injure or kill someone else who is considered a “vulnerable highway user.”

The protected group would include pedestrians, bicyclists, police, fire and other emergency personnel.

Offenders who harm a vulnerable highway user would face double penalties. Similar rules already are in place for traffic violations that occur in highway work zones.

Specifically, violations that result in severe injury could face fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days in jail. Incidents that cause death could result in fines of up to $10,000 and/or up to nine months in jail.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, told panel members the bill’s goal isn’t to put people in jail or fine them large amounts of money.

“In the event that an accident occurs and a vulnerable user is hurt, this bill gives police and prosecutors additional tools so that they can apply consequences that match the severity of the incident,” Olsen stated.

Supporters say the bill is a step toward making people more aware of other, more vulnerable, people on the roadway. Opponents say rules already in place address right of way issues.

Olsen, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said it would also include a driver’s education requirement that students spend at least 30 minutes learning about hazards posed by vulnerable highway users.

The bill – AB388 – remains in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

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