Michigan House Approves New Penalties for Drivers Who Hit Bicyclists and Runners

Michigan Lawmakers Push for Tougher Penalties on Drivers Who Injure Runners, Bicyclists, and Other Road Users

Michigan lawmakers made significant strides on Tuesday toward imposing stricter penalties on drivers who harm runners, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users, arguing that increased accountability is crucial.

Two bills, passed with bipartisan support in the Michigan House, are part of a broader effort aimed at providing prosecutors with additional options to charge motorists who injure “vulnerable roadway users.”

The initiative was partly inspired by a tragic June 2016 crash in Kalamazoo County that claimed the lives of five bicyclists and injured four others, leading to the passage of a 2018 law mandating a 3-foot distance between drivers and cyclists. Charles Pickett Jr., the driver responsible for the crash, received a lengthy prison sentence for murder. However, Representative Julie Rogers, a Kalamazoo Democrat and the primary sponsor of the legislation, argues that many other victims of vehicle-related accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians do not see the same level of justice.

“Recovering from physical pain is challenging enough,” Rogers stated. “Equally devastating is when the driver responsible for the crash is not held accountable.”

Under current law, hitting a person operating farming equipment constitutes a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $7,500, or both. The new bills, passed with votes of 79-29 and 78-30, would establish somewhat shorter penalties for striking and fatally injuring a person using a “vulnerable transportation device,” defined as any means by which a person or their property may be transported on a highway or street. If found guilty of seriously injuring non-drivers using the road, a driver could face up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $7,500, or both.

Additional bills awaiting Senate approval would define who qualifies as a vulnerable roadway user, a category encompassing bicyclists, wheelchair users, horse-drawn buggies, and others. The legislative package also introduces a new felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a moving violation resulting in serious injury to any vulnerable roadway user, including those operating farming equipment.

Matt Penniman, communications and advocacy director for the League of Michigan Bicyclists, hailed the legislation as “an important part of a culture change” aimed at ultimately eliminating road fatalities in Michigan.

The bills now move to the Senate for further consideration, while related Senate bills await a vote in the upper chamber.

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