New O’Brien legislation goes after motorists who injure, kill bicyclists

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Bills introduced in the state Senate on Thursday would stiffen penalties for motorists who injure or kill a pedestrian, wheelchair user, or person operating a transportation device, like a bicycle.

“While we do not know yet what factors led to the senseless tragedy in Kalamazoo, it is more than clear that more must be done to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable users on our roadways,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “I’m happy to partner with Senator Knezek and the House to provide protections.”

Senate Bill 1029 would make it a felony with up to 15 years imprisonment for motorists who kill bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users. The bill would also establish a misdemeanor charge for motorists who injure them, punishable by up to a year in prison.

O’Brien said the legislation had been in development for some time, but the recent event in Kalamazoo that left five bicyclists dead and four more injured after being struck by a motorist accelerated the bills’ introduction. The senator said she continues to work on other related legislation that she hopes to introduce soon.

Senator David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, worked with O’Brien on the legislation, sponsoring Senate Bill 1030, which would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines.

“Simply put, drivers must share the road with bicyclists,” Knezek said. “What happened in Kalamazoo could happen in my community or any other in Michigan. We may never be able to stop these things from happening, but we can make sure motorists who injure or kill vulnerable users of our state roadways pay for what they have done.”

The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary for consideration.