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Stiffer penalties for causing car accidents

A bill pending in Wisconsin is designed to increase penalties for motorists who harm those who are considered vulnerable highway users. Vulnerable highway users include pedestrians, cyclists, and emergency personnel or someone providing emergency assistance. If the bill is implemented, those who cause car accidents that involve bodily harm or death will face the same level of charges, but the penalties for a conviction will be higher. The senator who introduced the bill stated that lawmakers were looking for a middle ground between a felony and a mere $125 fine.

The bill has two main goals. The first is to increase the penalties for causing an accident that harms people who are less protected than individuals who are in cars; the other is to increase awareness of this issue. Along with the stiffer penalties, the law would also require that high school and college drivers' education courses include at least 30 minutes of training on the dangers presented by vulnerable highway users.

Some opponents of the bill have noted that it will create two classes of highway users, but those who support the new law state that the point of the legislation is to provide protection for those who need it the most. In particular, bicyclists are at risk for being injured, and many are not aware of how the law works. For example, a number of these individuals do not know that the person who hit them is often responsible for their medical bills.

When a vulnerable highway user has been in a traffic accident, there are likely to be large medical bills, which the at-fault driver would be held accountable for. The injured individual could also take steps to pursue additional funds for potentially increased living expenses in the event of a disability.

Source: Wisconsin Dells Events, "Bill proposes higher penalties in some traffic cases", Jason Cuevas, October 29, 2013

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