Although we negatively judge our American neighbours repeatedly over their gun laws, when the weapon is a car (and it is used to seriously hurt or kill a cyclist or pedestrian) they are way ahead of us and find our system appalling.
A large number of States have already passed Vulnerable Road User Laws and more are working on them.
These are not simply increased penalties. They are specific laws that reflect the obvious vulnerability of people who use our roads, but are not protected by two tons of armour, collapsible steering wheels, seatbelts and airbags.
In Oregon for instances, if you carelessly hit and seriously injure or kill a vulnerable road user, in addition to any other penalties you could face, you are required to take a road safety course and perform 100 to 200 community hours in the area of road safety. If you do not fulfil this in one year, your licence is suspended and you are subject to a fine of $12,500. In Ontario, I can tell you the usual sentence is a paltry fine that is less than the cost to fix the dent on the car.
Our present system lacks deterrence, lacks respect for the victim, and lacks respect for vulnerable road users.
We need penalties to match the gravity of the situation.
We need to rehabilitate the offender.
We need a send a message to other drivers to take care when near vulnerable road users.
We need to show respect to the victim and the survivors.
Ontario Public Health has indicated that driver on driver emergency room visits are going down. That is not the case for drivers hitting vulnerable road users. Our laws must address this issue. It is not enough to simply increase penalties.
We need the law to reflect the obvious — Vulnerable Road Users need added protection.
Patrick, of Bike Law Canada, is one of the founding members of the Toronto Bike Union (now CycleToronto), and is a former director. He is a proud contributor to Advocacy Respect for Cyclists [ARC] who have defended cyclist rights since 1996. He and his firm, McLeish Orlando LLP hold the annual Helmets on Kids Campaign in Toronto and sponsor CycleToronto’s annual “Get Lit” program and the City’s Bike Month. In 2013, the firm was awarded the Bicycle Friendly Business Award by the City for promoting cycling in and outside the office.