Farmers, Bicyclists Back Bill Penalizing Dangerous Drivers
By Shamane Mills
Thursday, October 17, 2013, 8:09am
Statewide groups representing farmers and bicyclists are backing a bill focusing on dangerously bad drivers. The Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Bike Fed are among those supporting tougher penalties for motorist violations.
Fifty-nine-year-old David Beam was bicycling on a county highway when he was struck by a car trying to pass on a hill. Beam suffered a broken neck, rib and leg that left him unable to work for three months.
The driver was found liable for civil damages but there were no criminal charges filed. Beam wishes there had been and that the penalties had been stronger. “If he'd hit a mailbox, he probably would have been charged with damage to property or losing control of his vehicle,” Beam said. “Almost killing somebody by losing control of your vehicle must mean something.”
The bill doubles the fine for most traffic violations involving vulnerable highway users. Jail time, driver education and license suspension are also part of the increased penalties a judge could impose. Vulnerable users include: horse drawn buggies, pedestrians, cyclists, farm vehicles and horseback riders.
The bill does not, however, include motorcyclists.
The motorcyle advocacy group known as ABATE asked to be taken out of the bill. ABATE's legislative director Dave Dwyer says the bill shows bias. “The penalties should be increased for all violations involving great bodily harm or death, not just a select few, and for all seriously injured and killed persons regardless of their conveyance.”