Proposal would Increase Penalties for Wisconsin Motorists who hit Bikers, Pedestrians

NOW: Proposal would Increase Penalties for Wisconsin Motorists who hit Bikers, Pedestrians

Drivers who commit right-of-way violations that injure bikers, cyclists, or pedestrians, could soon see tougher sanctions.

It's part of a bill making its way through the Assembly, that would require those drivers to pay higher fines, and take an online class. 

     "We pick up bad habits," says State Representative Janel Brandtjen. "This is about education, and making sure that we change those habits."

Brandtjen is the author of Assembly Bill 201, which cleared the committee level this week. 

The bill would expand the list of traffic violations for which the D.O.T would automatically suspend a drivers license. 

It would also require attendance at a vehicle right-of-way course, which would cost drivers about $100.

It's quickly generating support from groups like ABATE Wisconsin. 

     "Life changing instances have to change for both parties involved," says Dave Charlebois. 

Charlebois is the Executive Director for a motorcycle group called ABATE Wisconsin, and says he's constantly dealing with drivers failing to yield properly. 

     "There's always somebody that's got something more important to do, and I really feel like it's all of our jobs on the road to pay attention to that one aspect: driving." 

Under current law, right of way tickets can range from $20-$300. The bill would increase those fines to $500 if great bodily harm results, and $1,000 if death results. 

DOT suspensions would range from 3 months to 9 months for any right-of-way violation resulting in injury. 

Opponents have argued the fines and class could hurt low-income drivers, but Charlebois says it's worth the cost. 

     "People make mistakes, so it shouldn't be the end of their license forever. It shouldn't cost them so much money that they lose their job, it shouldn't be that life changing. But they should have to want to change that habit, and the best way they do it is through education." 

Brandtjen is expecting bi-partisan support once the legislation hits the Assembly floor. Charlebois hopes it makes drivers think twice about distracted driving. 

     "If you couldn't see us, this is your chance to learn how to see us, and quit making excuses." 

The bill still needs to clear the Assembly, and receive approval from Governor Walker. 

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