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The criminal consequences of negligent driving

$171.00.

That is how much a driver had to pay in a fine for hitting an Aurora resident with his car.

For Douglas Howey, the cost was much higher. While walking with his children, he was left permanently paralyzed after being struck by the aforementioned motor vehicle operator.

Adelaide Perr had forsaken motorized transportation for a bicycle. In a split second, a car collided with her, disfiguring her face and putting her in a five-day coma. Tragically, she was the victim of the driver’s 18th traffic infraction and fourth crash.

Colorado laws once equated hitting a person as sideswiping the mirror off a car. The consequences were minimal at best, and the questionably attentive driver usually kept their license.

The “Vulnerable Road User Law” adds criminal consequences to the civil penalties that come with personal injury lawsuits. With the swipe of Gov. Jared Polls’ pen, the new law places harsher, life-changing penalties for careless driving that results in tragedy. “Vulnerable users” are now a class of people that use different modes of transportation. In addition to walking and bicycling, the new law covers wheelchairs, scooters, motorcycles, tractors, and other types of conveyances.

Should they be injured by an inattentive motorist, that driver will be charged with a misdemeanor and face criminal charges and other penalties that include:

  • Paying restitution to the victims
  • Taking mandatory driving classes
  • Performing community service

Those found guilty will lose their license for a year. Some will have the option of pursuing a restricted license that limits their travel options to “extenuating circumstances.”

Bicycle Colorado was a strong advocate for the bill and believes that this is the first of many steps to ensure the protection of pedestrians and cyclists in both civil and criminal proceedings.

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