A few bills designed to protect cyclists and other vulnerable users were recently approved by the Senate.
One bill would block drivers from using a bike lane to go around a car that is stopped or turning left while also removing mopeds from bike lanes.
A separate [ Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell, of Fairfax] bill also narrowly approved by the Senate this week would create a specific traffic violation for distracted or careless drivers who strike a “vulnerable road user” in a crash that causes serious bodily injury.
Surovell said if the bill becomes law, it could set a standard that could help victims win civil suits against drivers for damages too.
“Right now, if a driver basically stands up in court and says ‘I didn’t see him’, it’s pretty much an absolute defense,” Surovell said.
Another bill that was advanced Wednesday by a subcommittee would expand Virginia’s existing ban on texting or emailing while driving to include tapping icons rather than just entering text and to clearly include the time a car is stopped in traffic or at a light
The bill would maintain an exception for the use of navigation apps.
Meanwhile, in the Republican controlled House of Delegates
A bill approved 80-18 in the House would provide a new exception [to distracted driving] for using screens that are factory-installed in a car.
The Senate bills were not without opponents
Republican Sen. Bill Carrico, of southwest Virginia, opposed the [bike lane bill], arguing that the new rules could confuse drivers.
“Their habits have been that they do this, and I think this is just going to create a confusion for the drivers out on the highways today that have practiced this for many many years,” Carrico said.
Changing laws is too confusing. Which is why we should have never gotten rid of witch burning laws. Now people have no idea what to do when a woman turns them into a newt.
GOP Sen. Ryan McDougle said existing laws should be enough [for crashes that causes serious bodily injury], since drivers can be charged with reckless driving in the most serious cases.
“The court is making the determination of whether the action is culpable and criminal or less culpable and not criminal. When we create this, now there’s a specific statute, so if somebody is struck … and there is serious injury, that person is not going to go to jail,” McDougle said.
“Reckless driving doesn’t work often in cycling cases,” Surovell responded, because there is not enough evidence.
The penalties in Surovell’s bill would only apply to drivers who are careless or distracted
By the way, on Inauguration Day I ran into Governor McAuliffe by chance. He asked about my injuries and so we had a brief talk about bike commuting and road safety, it was all very encouraging. "We need more people to bike and if we want them to bike, we need to make sure they're safe" he said (paraphrasing from memory).