Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Number of Fatal Bicycle Accidents Fuels New Driver-Negligence Bill

Bicycle accidents, laws, protests, trails are all Michael Dresser seems to write about. This guy and Mike Preston are my two least favorite Baltimore Sun journalist but I read their articles the most. Mike Dresser recently wrote an article about the creation of a new class of misdemeanor offense tailored specifically to protect bike riders and pedestrians. My last blog discussed the recent tragedy involving a Johns Hopkins student who was struck by a car while riding his bike and left in a coma. The General Assembly's approval of this new law comes on the heels of that incident. In fact, bicyclists' groups, energized by a series of fatal crashes involving motor vehicles and bikes and the recent Johns Hopkins accident, rode from Baltimore to Annapolis in support of the new law on April 6th. One of the organizers of the ride was a woman whose husband was killed while bicycling in Baltimore County one year ago.

The new law creates an offense of manslaughter by criminal negligence that is more serious than a traffic offense but with a lesser penalty than vehicular manslaughter. The new law gives prosecutors an alternative for prosecuting drivers who kill people as a result of serious negligence. Manslaughter by criminal negligence will carry up to three years in jail and a $5000 fine. The law was also created because courts were interpreting felony manslaughter so narrowly that it was only applied in instances of drunk driving or drag racing. The new charge will require a "gross deviation from the standard of care that would be exercised by a reasonable" motorist. An example of the type of conduct covered by this new law could be a fatal crash in which the driver had been speeding 20 mph over the speed limit while crossing double yellow lines and passing a school bus.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle or pedestrian accident contact the Maryland personal injury lawyers at Portner & Shure for a free consultation.

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