The state Senate on Wednesday said it's time Connecticut motorists became more aware of their responsibility to share the road with pedestrians, bicyclists and others.
The unanimous vote sends to the House a bill that would penalize car and truck drivers with fines of up to $1,000, on top of existing criminal charges, for injuring or killing so-called vulnerable users of the roads.
"The intent is to provide sufficient penalty to discourage this behavior," said Sen. Andrew M. Maynard, D-Stonington, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, who led the debate. "We tend to be particularly conscious of the rights and responsibilities of those who operate motor vehicles, but this is designed to increase awareness of those users of motor vehicles that there are other users rightly on public ways who, as long as they are exercising appropriate care and judgment, are entitled to be protected under law."
Drivers not using "reasonable care" could be penalized. Conversely, pedestrians and others not in cars would also have to show reasonable care. Current laws including misconduct with a motor vehicle and negligent homicide can be used to pursue criminal charges against drivers, but Maynard said the enhanced penalty is needed.
The Democrat-dominated Senate rejected a Republican amendment that would have required bicycles to ride single file. Currently, state laws allow bicyclists to ride side-by-side.
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