Cyclists Want Tougher Driving Laws in Seattle

Last February, a 39 year old father was killed when he was hit by a car while riding his bike to work.

His widow says, “…I don’t want it to happen again.” Speaking at a crowded bicycle summit at Seattle City Hall on Wednesday night in support of tougher laws against dangerous drivers, she said, “The person behind the wheel was negligent; their behavior was the cause of someone’s death. Why are they allowed to get behind the wheel of a car?”

A Seattle city ordinance that made it a misdemeanor to kill or injure someone in a traffic accident was overturned by the state Court of Appeals in August of this year.

As a result, drivers involved in deadly crashes can only be charged with felony vehicular homicide, and the charge only applies if they were drunk, on drugs or acting recklessly at the time of the crash. reports that according to statistics, some 500 people are killed or badly injured in traffic accidents in Washington state every year. But many of the offenders can’t be charged with any type of felony, and instead are just given traffic tickets.

One man at the summit said, “It just seems like you can break a whole lot of laws at the same time and you’re still not being reckless in the legal sense.”

Cascade Bicycle Club wants to broaden the state’s negligent driving misdemeanor charge. Advocates are hoping the legislative session will breed changes.

“There is a fight going on,” said Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle. “It’s probably going to take several years — that’s the nature of politics. Good, hard litigation typically doesn’t happen the first year out. And it may not happen the second or third, but it will happen.”

At the very least, cyclists are asking that if more jail time isn’t possible, driver’s licenses should be taken away or penalties dramatically increased. They have even discussed the creation of a citizen-run database to publicly keep tabs on bad drivers and their dangerous actions.

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