sb 5838 passes committee vote

Got the good word from the Cascade Bicycle Club today that the Vulnerable Roadway User Bill squeaked through the Washington State Senate Judiciary Committee vote 5-3.  Senators voting for it were : Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Sen. Randy Gordon, Sen. Adam Kline, Sen. Pam Roach, and Sen. Debbie Regala.

Apparently Sen. Bob McCaslin, Sen. Mike Carrell, and a confused Sen. James Hargrove voted against the bill. 

I note Sen. Hargrove’s confusion because according to the Seattle Times, he had asked a question concerning whether or not the "actions of the skateboarder or bicyclist would be taken into account".  The bill details whether or not the driver’s traffic offense was the proximate cause of the injury to the subject.  Obviously this would render Sen. Hargrove’s questions irrelevent.  But that apparently didn’t affect his decision to vote against the bill.

By the way, I’m still awaiting a response to two queries for my state senator, Rodney Tom, to his stance on this issue.  It’s surprising to me that he hasn’t chosen to take a visible stand for or against, given that he claims to be an "avid cyclist", and has noted that his wife "rides every single day".  Surely he would have an opinion one way or the other.

Some of the counterarguments I have heard to the bill include :

  • Punitive laws are bad.
  • Why don’t we pass laws deterring specific bad behavior such as cell phone usage or texting ?
  • Should laws cover actual consequence of behavior or just the offending behavior itself ?

I don’t care of punitive laws either, but do recognize that they can be effective deterrents.  And strictly speaking, any law passing a penalty for behavior is punitive, isn’t it ?  Take five seconds and read that definition.

As to the second question, while I do not oppose laws against bad behavior, attacking negligence means you’re getting right to the heart of the matter.  This avoids the inevitable useless debates about whether or not using a cell phone is permissible or not.  And you don’t need to pass specific laws about specific bad behaviors.

The third question is a good one.  To be fair, the way I heard this was posed more narrowly – against specific circumstances outside the behavior of the driver that may have led to the death or injury.  In a perfect world, it might be possible to do this.  But we don’t live in a perfect world.  Also – in a strict legal sense, there are cases in which overt acts may not be the sole cause of death or injury.  Here I have to leave this to the judgment of a court.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have offenses like manslaughter, right ?  It’s a matter of degree – but I still want negligent drivers held accountable.

Those that voted against the bill perhaps would not appreciate being characterized as being against holding negligent drivers accountable.  On the other hand, none of these folks spoke up during the public hearing I attended a couple of weeks back, so it’s unclear what else they were against.

In any case, check out the material concerning the bill, including the FAQ.  If you’re so inclined, contact your state legislator and tell them what you think about this.

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