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New law to protect Connecticut pedestrians and bicyclists

Many pedestrians and bicyclists are injured each year in Connecticut as a result of inattentive drivers or drivers who fail yield to the right of way. However, a new bill that will likely soon become law holds drivers who fail to use “reasonable care” responsible for accidents that that they cause.

The General Assembly voted this week to approve the bill, which increases fines for drivers who seriously injure people who are considered "vulnerable users,” including walkers, bikers, those in wheelchairs, horseback riders, tractor drivers, highway workers, skateboarders and roller skaters.

The bill applies additional fines of up to $1,000 for drivers who cause serious accidents after failing to exercise reasonable care.

 Several state lawmakers expressed support for the bill, which has been advocate for by pedestrian and bicycle activists for three years at the state capitol. One state lawmaker from New Haven said that pedestrians and cyclists have felt like “second-class citizens” for too long in the state.

Another state lawmaker from New Fairfield said that the state has seen too many deaths and injuries, and the measure is needed to hold drivers accountable. A state lawmaker from Wilton said her part of the state is especially in need of added protections for pedestrians and bicyclists as its roads are often winding and wooded.

Since being approved by both the House and Senate, the bill now just needs a signature from the governor to become law.

Reckless drivers who cause serious or fatal accidents can be charged under existing laws such as misconduct with a motor vehicle or negligent homicide, which can carry prison time.

In addition to facing criminal charges, negligent and reckless drivers can also face civil liability. Victims of serious motor vehicle accidents and family members who lost loved ones in fatal accidents can often pursue personal injury or wrongful death claims against the drivers in civil court. 

Source: The Hartford Courant, Lawmakers OK Heavier Fines For Drivers Who Injure Or Kill Cyclists, Pedestrians,” Gregory B. Hladky, May 1, 2014

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