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Sunday, March 29 2015 @ 04:10 PM UTC
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Shouldn't it be a crime to kill someone by driving a vehicle negligently? It's not.

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: WABA's alert tailored for Baltimore.]

Action Alert

Each year, too many bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists die on the roadways of Maryland.  Part of the problem is aggressive drivers who speed, tailgate, drive on the wrong side of a double-yellow line or drive on the shoulder--and never yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.  If they kill someone in most states or the District of Columbia, a jail sentence is likely.  But not in Maryland.

A drunk driver who kills someone in Maryland may be convicted of manslaughter if they are drunk.  But otherwise, to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter requires proving that the driver knew that he or she might kill someone.  And that is almost always impossible to prove. 

A driver in Takoma Park swerved off the road and hit a 12-year old girl walking home from school on the sidewalk along Piney Branch Road.  He then made a U-turn and drove off, and the girl died.  The jury convicted him of manslaughter.  But the appeals court overturned the conviction because under Maryland law, this evidence does not prove that the driver was reckless.

A driver in St. Mary’s county decided not to clear her windshield of frost, other than a small viewing hole.  As a result, she could not see anything on the right side of the lane. While fiddling with some items on her lap, she struck and killed a father riding his bicycle on the right side of the road.  Because she did not see the cyclist, she could not be convicted of manslaughter for killing him, and was fined $500.

In most states, drivers who kill can be charged with negligent homicide, if their driving is a flagrant violation of the duty to drive carefully—even if there is no proof that the driver realized they might kill someone.  The loophole in Maryland is that there is no such crime.

But this year, the House of Delegates passed House Bill 363 which would create the crime of negligent vehicular homicide in Maryland.  If the Senate passes the bill as well, Maryland will join most of the other states in the nation by closing the loophole.  But the key committee deciding the fate of this bill killed it last year—and they may do it again this year, unless these Senators hear from their constituents.

Time is dwindling in the legislative session, and at this late stage, phone calls are the most effective means of communicating the importance of this bill.

There are three key senators on the committee who need to hear from their constituents that this is a priority.  If you live within the District of one of these senators, please make a call, stating your support for HB 363-Criminally Negligent Homicide by Vehicle.  To find your Maryland Senatorial District, click HERE.

Senator Lisa A. Gladden (District 41): (410) 841-3697

Senator Robert A. (Bobby) Zirkin (District 11): (410) 841-3131

Senator James Brochin (District 42): (410) 841-3648

*** Note these Senators are already supportive the ASK is to make this Bill a priority and to keep it as passed and amended by the House.

If you are unable to call or do not live within one of these Districts, CLICK HERE to send an email to your state senator expressing your support for HB 363.

Thank you,

Baltimore Spokes

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Share the Road PSA - Dont Cut Off The Bike [video]

Bike LawsThis is from DC but equally valid in Maryland:
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Moving right along-- Legislation

Bike LawsFrom Adiva Sotzsky, member of the Bike Maryland Task Force

We are now ready for the next stage of our efforts to enact Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel - Criminal Negligence

The Bill has passed the House  -- today-- Thursday March 24, 2011    vote was 137-0
We will now address the Senate.   I have 2 action items below.

A)  Please begin your contact 'trees' to have people call/email their State Senators.
  As we all know-- they only need to say that they want Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel - Criminal Negligence -- supported.  It is HB363 and has passed the House

      If they are unsure of their Senator, they can find this either --  
   or   by name, or county or district at

B)  Well also want to focus on members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee
        By all means, if they are your Senator - contact them
        If you want to set up a meeting to talk with them about the bill --- go for it!
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After 7 Years, Finally a Vote for Maryland's Vehicular Manslaughter Bill

Bike LawsFrom

For seven years, accident victim and cycling/walking advocates have been trying to close a flagrant loophole in Maryland's law to make the road safer for bikers, pedestrians and all who use the road. And for six years running, the bill would get stuck in the same committee. Over and over again.

Now, for the first time ever, the State House Judiciary committee plans to finally vote on the bill. Approval would set the stage for passage by the House by April, a gigantic leap forward towards passing this law.

Almost 5,000 people have already signed a petition urging the House to pass the bill. The petition was started by Kenniss Henry, whose only child, 30-year-old Natasha Pettigrew, was killed by a hit-and-run motorist on her bicycle last Fall. As Maryland's law stands now, no matter how reckless the behavior, short of drunkenness, the driver is likely to get off with merely a traffic violation and minimal fine. The new law would close this loophole, introducing jail time for criminally reckless drivers who kill others with their behavior.

As Bike Maryland states: "There have been far too many fatalities on Maryland roads. Motorists are not penalized adequately and get off with a minor traffic court slap on the hand." 

If you live in Maryland, there is an urgent action still to be taken. Call your Delegate today to clearly register your last minute support for the bill.

Here's how: Enter your home address HERE to identify your Delegate - your Delegate will be listed on the left side of the screen. Click on your Delegate's name for contact information. Pick up the phone and make a 2 minute phone call. Let them know you are a constituent and you support House Bill 363. It is not necessary to discuss the bill in more detail.

The bill could come up for a vote any day this week. Please call immediately to register your support. And if you haven't yet—please sign the petition.

Photo credit: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr

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Bill to create new crime of negligent homicide by vehicle clears major hurdle in Maryland House Committee

Bike Laws

In the Maryland General Assembly, House Bill 363 (Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel, criminal negligence) unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee, with amendments. The bill would create a new crime of negligent homicide by vehicle or vessel, with a maximum term of three years.

The existing crime of manslaughter by vehicle requires proof that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial risk of killing someone. Except for drivers who were either drunk or at least 30 mph faster than the speed of traffic, no one has been convicted unless a witness at trial testified as to the driver’s state of mind, which makes it impossible to convict most solo drivers.

For further details, please see WABA’s testimony.

Maryland is one of only a handful of states where a conviction for vehicular homicide is so difficult. Under House Bill 363, it will be possible to convict a defendant who should have known there was a risk of killing someone, without proving that the defendant actually knew about the risk.

Passing the House Judiciary Committee is a major milestone. The bill has been introduced each of the last seven years, but never brought to a vote, due to the opposition of Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario (D-Prince Georges).

If you live in Maryland, please call your delegates and ask them to support the bill.  Even if you only get their staff, calls make a much greater impression than emails. But emails are certainly worthwhile if you can only find the time after business hours.

Please act as soon as you can, because bills move fast this time of year. The amended bill has not yet been posted. In the next few days, we will provide an update on the amendments and what we need to do next.

(The author, Jim Titus, is a Member of the WABA Board of Directors and resident of Prince George’s County, MD.)

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HB363 on the Judiciary Committee Vote list -- Your immediate help is needed!!!

Bike LawsUpdate: Bill to create new crime of negligent homicide by vehicle clears major hurdle in Maryland House Committee
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Panel rejects tough drunk driving bill

Bike Lawsfrom Getting There by Michael Dresser

The House Judiciary Committee live up to its reputation as the graveyard of strong drunk-driving legislation last week as it killed a bill that would have increased penalties for refusing to take a blood-alcohol test for a second time. The bill would have allowed a $1,000 fine or up to a 12-month jail term for such a refusal.

The bill was one of the primary objectives of anti-drunk-driving activists during this legislative session and won the endorsement of police and prosecutors.

The committee rejected the measure on a 12-7 vote.
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Vulnerable users "bike bills" making progress in WA and NM; mixed results in MD

Bike LawsThe Maryland measure, House Bill 363, is apparently stuck in the House Judiciary Committee because chairman Joseph Vallario Jr. doesn't like the bill.
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Alert: 4,800 People Join to End Maryland's Reckless Driving Loophole

Bike Lawsby Jess Leber

One state lawmaker calls Maryland's lack of a vehicular manslaughter law "a cosmic absurdity."

For grieving families and friends of vehicular manslaughter victims, the law is simply tragic.

Almost 5,000 people have joined Kenniss Henry, a Maryland mother who is still mourning her only child's death last September, in calling on the Maryland legislature to revise the law. As it stands now, a criminally-reckless driver faces no more than a traffic violation for killing another human being. Even if the driver is flouting the speed limit. Or edging too close to a cyclist. As long as he is not drunk, he will likely not face criminal charges.

This week, Ms. Henry wrote a note to signers of the petition: "Thank you for all of your support. There are no words to express how much this means to me, and how much it would have meant to my daughter." The support has really flowed, and a number of state legislators have noted the emails they've received from their constituents via Ms. Henry's petition. The document at the bottom of this post shows just some of the personalized comments left by Maryland residents when they signed, expressing the many reasons why this law should be passed. Some have also seen loved ones killed or injured.

If you haven't signed yet, you can add your name here.

Ms. Henry was among 21 people who testified for the bill at a committee hearing in February. Others who testified in its support included other victims' relatives, a mayor, both state and private practice attorneys, regional cycling advocates from Maryland and DC, and a former state legislator who once sat on the very same committee. (Read more on Bike Maryland's website).

Kenniss Henry is relative new to this fight. Adiva Sotzky, on the other hand, has been at it for six years, ever since a distracted driver killed her husband while he was on his motorcycle. Ms. Sotzky has been leading the charge and is very familiar with the ways previous versions of this bill have stagnated in the House of Delegates.

Both Ms. Henry and Ms. Sotzky say the hearing went extremely well, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. For seven previous years, the bill has stagnated in the committee without ever even coming up for a vote.

The best thing to be done right now is to make sure Maryland's House delegates have the chance to pass this important legislation. They have to do it before April, when this year's session is already over.

If you live in Maryland, will you directly email or call House Speaker Michael Busch? Tell him you support H.B. 363 -- the Vehicular Manslaughter Act -- and want to make sure it gets out of committee this year for a full vote. Make sure you've signed the petition, then tell him you've already emailed your delegate about the bill.


Phone: (410) 841-3800 or (301) 858-3800

As Kenniss Henry says: "I never really been involved in lobbying for legislation at this level—trying to move something from where it is to where it needs to be. I was very moved by the hearing, and I was honored to be a part of this group. ...I have met advocates who lost family members as far back as seven years ago and I know that you agree, seven years is long enough."

Sign the petition and—if you live in Maryland—make the phone call above.

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MADD not impressed by Vallario drunk-driving bill

Bike Lawsfrom Getting There by Michael Dresser

MADD supports legislation that would make installation of such devices mandatory for all those convicted on driving under the influence. Such a bill passed thhe Senate last year only to die in the Judiciary Committee when Vallario declined to bring it up for a vote.
Cash said she had at first been encouraged when she heard Vallario was proposing his own bill. But once interlock proponents read the full bill, they realized there was nothing mandatory about it, she said.

MADD supports a bill called the Drunk Driving Elimination Act, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Raskin and in the House by Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, both Montgomery County Democrats.
The Vallario bill would require drivers who are found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more -- or those who refuse an alcohol test -- to enter an ignition interlock program in order to avert a driver's license suspension. But Cash said that is no more than drivers are permitted to do now, adding that many drivers simply accept the suspension but continue driving anyway.

Vallario's role is crucial because as chairman he can prevent any bill he opposes from getting a vote in committee. In practical terms only the speaker, who appoints committee chairs, has the authority to tell him to bring a bill to a vote.
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