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D.C. Poised to Strike Down Law That Blames Cyclists When They Are Struck

Bike Lawsby Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

When cyclists and pedestrians are injured in traffic crashes in D.C., there’s a big legal obstacle standing in the way of justice. That obstacle is a legal standard called “contributory negligence.”

Now the City Council is poised to strike down that rule and replace it with the more widely used and fairer “comparative fault” standard, report Tracy Hadden Loh and Tamara Evans at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Loh explains how D.C.’s current law prevented her from seeking compensation when she really needed it:

In 2008, a driver in a minivan hit me (Tracy) when I was riding my bike on Connecticut Avenue, fracturing my pelvis in three places. The driver’s insurance company denied my claim because of a law that says if you’re even 1% at fault, you can’t collect anything. The good news? DC is moving to change this.

Currently, DC, Maryland, and Virginia use what’s called a pure contributory negligence standard to decide who pays what damages after a vehicle collision involving someone on bike or foot. I wrote about contributory negligence in 2014, but the basic thing you need to know is that under this standard, if the person is even 1% at fault for a collision, they can’t collect anything from the other party (or parties).


Insurance companies benefit from contributory negligence because it makes it very low risk to deny a claim, since the legal standard a court would apply is so broad.
...

http://www.streetsblog.net/2016/05/12/d-c-poised-to-strike-down-law-that-blames-cyclists-when-they-are-struck/
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Father of Police Officer Who Was Killed Calls for Tougher Drunken Driving Laws

Bike LawsBY ANDREW METCALF, Bethesda Magazine

...
"Leotta, who was flanked by Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy and county police Chief Tom Manger, also criticized what he described as weak penalties for drunken drivers in Maryland."
...

"Leotta also called out state Del. Joseph Vallario (D-Prince George's County), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who Leotta said has blocked “common sense legislation” to toughen drunken driving laws. "

"Leotta, Manger and local state legislators are pursuing “Noah’s Law” to require repeat offenders to have an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. The system would require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer in order to start their vehicles. Leotta said Vallario’s occupation as a defense attorney, in which he defends individuals charged with drunken driving offenses, is a conflict of interest."
...

http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/Web-2016/Father-of-Police-Officer-Who-Was-Killed-Calls-for-Tougher-Drunken-Driving-Laws/

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The Evolution of Stay-Right Laws

Bike Laws"Modern traffic laws define the slower-traffic-stay-right rule separately from the drive-on-the-right-half-of-the-road rule, but they originated as a single rule."

http://www.bikewalknc.org/2015/11/the-evolution-of-stay-right-laws/
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Stiffer drunken-driving bill stalled in Md. House panel; advocates worried

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: Vallario is still insisting that the state be lenient with drunk drivers. :( ]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/redistricting-looms-but-vallario-retains-old-school-grip-on-md-house-judiciary-committee/2013/03/03/f5356544-81f7-11e2-8074-b26a871b165a_story.html
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Life-Saving Truck Design Fix Sidelined By Federal Inaction

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: As if the only "safety" the Feds are concerned about is protecting the driver from their own mistakes... others be damned.]
********************************************************************************************************************************************************
by Stephen Miller, Streets Blog

American cities are beginning to take the lead on requiring side guards on large trucks in municipal fleets. That’s a good first step toward saving lives, but without addressing privately-owned vehicles, city streets will not be safe from trucks that tend to crush people beneath the rear wheels after impact. The federal government continues to drag its feet, however, and without a national mandate, the prospects for meaningful action from Albany look slim.
...

<a href="http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/12/22/without-federal-mandate-albany-stalls-on-life-saving-truck-safety-fix/">http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/12/22/without-federal-mandate-albany-stalls-on-life-saving-truck-safety-fix/</a>;
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BOSTON (MA) 1ST TO MANDATE TRUCK SAFETY MEASURES FOR CYCLISTS & PEDS

Bike Laws-&gt; According to an Oct. 29th City of Boston media release, &quot;Today the Boston City Council voted unanimously to pass a Truck Side Guard Ordinance,... [mandating] all large city-contracted vehicles to be equipped with enhanced safety measures designed to prevent fatalities and further reduce the risks of a collision with pedestrians and cyclists.

&quot;The Truck Side Guard Ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. The ordinance requires vehicles over 10,000 pounds (for tractor-trailers a combined weight over 26,000 pounds) and awarded a contract with the City of Boston to have side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals. Vehicles associated with an awarded City contract will be inspected for side guards by the Inspectional Services Department and issued a permit, certifying the vehicle for 2-years. For those vehicles not in compliance, businesses will face a fine, escalating from $100 for the first offense, to potential termination of the contract...

&quot;In 2013, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Public Works Department undertook the largest municipal pilot of truck side guards in the nation. The Truck Side Guard Ordinance is a result of this pilot, which included more than a year of testing three different types of side guards on 16 large vehicles, reviewing data from external studies, and from field observations. In the City of Boston pilot, each vehicle cost about $1,800 to outfit and will last the lifetime of the vehicle.&quot;

Source: <a href="http://bit.ly/1qWmAot">http://bit.ly/1qWmAot</a>;

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling &amp; Walking.
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The bicycle and pedestrian "contributory negligence" bill is in trouble. Here's why.

Bike Lawsby David Alpert , Greater Greater Washington

...
But sponsors said yesterday it's unlikely to pass, in large part because of concerns from trial lawyers about its impact on high-dollar cases.


Photo by Rosario Esquivel on Flickr.
&quot;Trial lawyers&quot; bring lawsuits to help people recover money after car crashes, job injuries, employment discrimination, defective products, and more. They are often derided as &quot;ambulance chasers&quot; and the like. But lawsuits when people's rights are violated or negligence has caused harm are also an important force keeping companies from ignoring safety problems or violating the law.

The trial lawyers are also well-organized and active in lobbying, locally through the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan DC. According to Councilmember Tommy Wells, the TLA has been pushing councilmembers not to move forward with the bill. So has the insurance industry.
...

I spoke to her to understand why she feels this way.

Why are trial lawyers against the bill?

You might ask, wait a minute. This bill is supposed to help cyclists and pedestrians recover if they are injured. And trial lawyers are the people who bring those lawsuits. So why are they against this?

It's because of a legal doctrine known as &quot;joint and several liability.&quot; As Wells explained it, if you're hit by a driver who has no money, but someone else who was negligent in some way (maybe the brakes manufacturer, if the brakes failed, for example), you can also go after that party. And even if most of the fault isn't with them, you could recover all of the medical costs from the deeper-pocketed entity.

The trial lawyers really like this provision, because they are really interested in the big cases that can mean a lot of money, both for their clients and for them. Cheh also said she wants to keep it, and noted that in the 45 states which don't have contributory negligence, often they also don't have joint and several liability.
...

<a href="http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24810/the-bicycle-and-pedestrian-contributory-negligence-bill-is-in-trouble-heres-why/">http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24810/the-bicycle-and-pedestrian-contributory-negligence-bill-is-in-trouble-heres-why/</a>;
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BOB MIONSKE ON THE 3-FOOT LAW

Bike Laws[Bob Mionske responds to these and other comments:]
...
My question: If, on a rural 2-lane road, an officer gives a motorist a citation for part of the vehicle crossing the double yellow in order to grant the cyclist room, assuming there was clearly sufficient room to do so without peril from an oncoming vehicle, what is the likeliest scenario in a courtroom if the motorist decides to contest this citation?
...
It would seem intuitive that the decision to mark a road double yellow as opposed to a broken yellow is based on engineering decisions contemplating cars passing other cars at high speed. Might the court agree and, if so, could the fact that a car is passing a cyclist, rather than a motorist, be a mitigating factor in the court's decision, and could this be a reasonable defense by a motorist charged with a violation of 21460?
...

<a href="http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2014/11/5/Bob-Mionske-on-the-3Foot-Law">http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2014/11/5/Bob-Mionske-on-the-3Foot-Law</a>;
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A FULLER DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE PROBLEM FOR BICYCLISTS

Bike LawsB' Spokes: DC and Maryland both have the contributory negligence doctrine. For those interested in learning more, this is what Shane Farthing from WABA has but together:

<a href="http://www.waba.org/blog/2014/10/a-fuller-description-of-the-contributory-negligence-problem-for-bicyclists/">http://www.waba.org/blog/2014/10/a-fuller-description-of-the-contributory-negligence-problem-for-bicyclists/</a>;
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Crossing A Double Yellow Line

Bike Laws by Eli Damon, Co-author: Steven Goodridge, I am Traffic

...
How did we get here?
...
In response to motorist errors, traffic engineers began marking no-passing zones in areas where the sight distance was inadequate to safely pass a vehicle traveling just below the maximum posted speed limit.
...
Over time, solid centerlines proliferated over a larger percentage of roadway miles. Engineers marked them extending out several hundred feet from intersections, in areas with driveways, and anywhere else that the engineers considered unsafe for passing, particularly at high speed. The formulas and tables used to determine where to place solid centerlines assumed that the vehicle being passed was traveling near the maximum posted speed limit1, so that dashed center lines, indicating permission to pass, became quite rare. On many two-lane roads, solid centerlines continue for miles at a time, with no dashed sections at all.
...
The markings that traffic engineers placed on most miles of two-lane roads did not communicate a reasonably convenient process for passing low-speed vehicles.
...

What’s the problem?

In most of the United States, a motorist is not clearly permitted to cross a solid centerline to pass a cyclist when it is safe to do so. Yet practically all drivers do so rather than continue to follow the cyclist at reduced speed. Drivers recognize that current striping policies for no-passing zones are overly restrictive in the context of low-speed vehicles. Mathematical analysis bears this out. For instance, safely passing a motorist traveling at 35 mph on a 45 mph road requires a sight distance 600 feet longer than passing a 15 mph bicyclist on the same road.
...

The legal ambiguity around crossing a solid centerline line is a source of conflict for cyclists, motorists, police officers, and driving instructors. Motorists can be unnecessarily inconvenienced because they believe that they are not allowed to pass a cyclist. Their frustration can lead to resentment and hostility toward cyclists. It can even lead to riskier behavior and crashes. A motorist might honk or yell at cyclists or might buzz them to avoid crossing a solid centerline. In the worst cases, motorists have attempted to squeeze past cyclists within the same lane and fatally struck the cyclists.
...

Can we fix this thing?
...

Model No-Passing-Zone Exception

When passing a pedestrian, bicycle, tractor, or other slow moving vehicle, the operator of a vehicle may drive on the left side of the center of a roadway in a no-passing zone when such movement can be made in safety and without interfering with or endangering other traffic on the highway.
...

We ask that legislators modernize their passing laws to reflect safe and practical passing practices, and that cycling advocates make a priority of lobbying them to do so.
...

<a href="http://iamtraffic.org/engineering/crossing-double-yellow-line/">http://iamtraffic.org/engineering/crossing-double-yellow-line/</a>;
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