Florida is one of the most dangerous states in the country for walking, riding a bicycle, and motorcycle riding. Smart Growth America’s most recent Dangerous by Design report shows that Florida is the deadliest state for pedestrians, with 5,433 fatalities happening between 2008–2017. Bicyclist fatality numbers are just as alarming with higher rates than pedestrian fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 857 bicyclists were killed in Florida traffic crashes in 2018.
In response to these staggering fatality rates, Florida lawmakers are now pushing legislation that calls for tougher penalties on drivers guilty of moving violations that result in significant bodily harm or the death of a vulnerable road user. Two bills are being considered in the Florida House and Senate.
Who is a Vulnerable Road User in Florida?
Vulnerable road users are those on the road traveling without the protective steel shell of a motor vehicle. These individuals are especially at high risk when in traffic.
Vulnerable Road Users include:
- Roadside workers;
- First responders;
- People in wheelchairs.
Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians near St. Pete are especially at risk. Florida’s four most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians are:
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater;
The elderly, children, and people with disabilities are considered especially vulnerable.
What Does Florida’s Proposed “Vulnerable Road User” Law Entail?
The Vulnerable Road User bill, sponsored by State Representative Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), seeks tough penalties for drivers whose actions cause serious bodily harm or death of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
Similar legislation calling for more stringent penalties was introduced in 2019 but did not come to fruition. As fatality rates have remained at staggeringly high levels, lawmakers are determined to create change, so Floridians are safe – whether they’re in a vehicle, on a bike, or walking around St. Pete Beach.
Rachel Maney, director of the non-profit group Bike Law, described to an Orlando news station how she was thankful that legislation to protect Vulnerable Road Users has been filed, and is optimistic about the outcome. She explained:
“We’re no longer going to trivialize the value of human life. Under current law, it’s a moving violation that has to change … I think we are at this juncture in time where there is no other response.”
Maney also noted the death of retired Marine David McGrinn, who was killed while cycling near the Orlando International Airport, and said she hopes the laws will be named in his honor.
What Penalties Might Drivers Face for Harming Vulnerable Road Users?
Under current laws in Florida, drivers who cause death or severe injuries to Vulnerable Road Users face no significant or meaningful charges. Often, they’re not even required to show up in court. Instead, they simply pay a fine that can be sent via mail. The only caveat is if there is proof of gross negligence – this may include proof that a driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If such evidence is uncovered, the driver may then face harsh penalties.
If the proposed law passes, penalties for motorists found guilty of significant bodily harm or death may include:
- A fine;
- House arrest;
- Attending a driver-improvement course;
- Loss of driver’s license “for a minimum specified period”.
If the House and Senate bills pass, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2020.
Call St. Petersburg Trusted Motorcycle Accident Lawyer After a Crash
Motorcyclists and Vulnerable Road Users involved in a vehicle crash often face life-threatening injuries that can impact the rest of their lives. St. Petersburg, FL has some of the highest rates of fatalities for bikers and pedestrians. If you or someone you love has suffered in a collision with a car while riding a motorcycle, walking, or bicycling in St. Petersburg, call the motorcycle accident lawyer in St. Petersburg with a reputation for aggressively representing accident injury victims.
Attorney Frank P. Marsalisi of Marsalisi Law takes a personal approach with each of his clients, working to understand every detail surrounding your case to obtain the most favorable outcome and much-needed compensation. As one of the National Trial Lawyers’ Top 40 Attorneys Under 40 – you can be confident in entrusting Frank to handle your injury claim with tenacity and care.
To schedule a free consultation and speak with Frank personally, complete an online contact form or call today at (727) 800-5052.
Marsalisi Law is Where Law Gets Personal!