Senate panel approves O’Brien legislation penalizing motorists who injure, kill bicyclists

LANSING, Mich. — Motorists who injure or kill a pedestrian, wheel chair user, or person operating a transportation device, such as a bicycle, would face stiffer penalties under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“More and more, it seems, going for a bike ride is turning into senseless tragedies,” said bill sponsor Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “We need to share the roads, and we are working to do more to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable users sharing the roadways.”

O’Brien was joined in testimony at the committee hearing by Jennifer Johnson, of Kalamazoo, who was one of the bicyclists injured by a motorist that struck and killed five and injured four bicyclists near Kalamazoo last June.

Senate Bill 1029 would make it a felony with up to 15 years of 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. A companion measure, SB 1030, sponsored by Senator David Knezek, which would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines, was also approved.

Additional bills on the topic received approval as well. SB 1076 and 1077, sponsored by O’Brien and Knezek, respectively, would require drivers to maintain a minimum 5-foot distance when passing bicyclists. SB 1078, also sponsored by O’Brien, would require drivers to receive at least three hours of instruction regarding safety for bicyclists and motorcyclists on the road.

The bills now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Photo caption: Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on legislation that strengthens penalties on motorists who injure or kill bicyclists.

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