On Monday April 11, the Maryland State Senate passed HB 363, which gives Maryland law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to see that traffic justice is served. The new law creates a new misdemeanor level offence: vehicular negligent homicide. This closes a loophole that had let negligent drivers off with mere traffic fines for killing other road users, while still allowing for felony level charges to be brought in instances of gross negligence such as drunk driving. Guilty drivers will face up to 3 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
Thanks to Bike Maryland, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA), AAA Mid-Atlantic, bill author Delegate Luiz Simmons, Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee Chair Brian Frosh and the hundreds of Maryland cyclists who took action in support of the bill, the governor is expected to sign the bill soon. Laws like this have been long sought by advocates in many states, so congratulations to Maryland for their success.
As Maryland advocates welcomed their good news, cyclists in New Mexico faced a setback. Despite passing both the state House and Senate with relative ease, Governor Martinez vetoed what would have been the country’s first statewide five-foot passing law. Such a law already exists within two cities in the state: Albuquerque and Los Alamos. Making it statewide would make for consistent application as cyclists and motorists travel throughout the state.
The League is disappointed the Governor chose to veto the bill that would have served as an good opportunity to educate motorists and cyclists about shared roadway safety, and would have provided another opportunity for state law enforcement to help protect cyclists.
On a related note, Angie Schmitt of the Streetsblog Network describes how Texas communities are now passing their own vulnerable road user laws in the wake of Governor Perry’s vetoing a statewide measure before it became law.
Jeff PeelPeel joined the League in March 2008 as a Program Specialist for the Bicycle Friendly Communities program. Peel has a BA in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi.
State and Local Advocacy Coordinator