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Assembly Bill 2398 (Levine) Stiffens Fines for Careless Motorists

Today Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) announced that he has authored AB 2398 to protect "vulnerable road users" on California roads. Vulnerable road users include bicyclists, pedestrians, highway workers, skaters, and people using farm equipment or on horseback.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the most recent data shows that traffic fatalities are up for the first time in the last seven years. This includes 726 bicyclists who lost their lives in 2012 (a 6.5% increase) and 49,000 injured. Pedestrians and cyclists represented 17% of traffic deaths in 2012, compared to 13% in 2003.

"AB 2398 discourages distracted driving by establishing stricter penalties for a motorist who carelessly harms a vulnerable road user," said Levine. "These bicyclists and others face disproportionate road dangers. Motorists need to be aware and to share the road. AB 2398 provides much needed protections for all, whether motorized or not, who use the road."

When a motorist hits a vulnerable road user, the motorist has most likely violated the rules of the road and committed an infraction. This bill expands upon existing law by creating an additional fine of up to $1000 for drivers who cause injury to vulnerable road users. AB 2398 would create an infraction that could result in one point being charged against the motorist's driver's record and is loosely modeled on an existing law in Oregon (HR 3314 – 2007).

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition supports AB 2398. "Too often motorists injure cyclists, sometimes severely, only to be fined at levels consistent with relatively minor traffic infractions like rolling through a stop sign. AB 2398 provides for fines that are more commensurate with the protection of human life," says Andy Peri, Advocacy Director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

"Improving behavior on our public roads is essential to protect bicyclists and pedestrians," said Gary Helfrich, Executive Director of the Sonoma Bike Coalition. "Currently, consequences for drivers injuring pedestrians or bicyclists are minor and there is a prevailing attitude that the victim should not have been in the road in the first place. AB 2398 changes this by recognizing that whoever can do the most damage has a responsibility to be the most careful."

"This bill helps to make it clear that we should be extra careful when we drive around people walking and biking, without the protection of the big metal box of a car," said Dave Snyder, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition. "We're coming a long way in California toward a place where everyone feels safe and comfortable riding a bike for short trips, and this bill is another great step in that direction."

Contact: Michael Miiller, (916) 319-2010 or (916) 204-0485

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