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What is the Vulnerable Road User Ordinance?

By Butler Prather LLP on January 23, 2020

There are certain users on our roadways that are more vulnerable to serious injuries in the event an accident occurs. Particularly, bicyclists and pedestrians are much more likely to sustain injuries in the event they are struck by a vehicle. A high percentage of these vulnerable roadway users sustain injuries or fatalities in collisions with heavy vehicles. According to the Georgia Governor’s Officer of Highway Safety, vulnerable roadway users sustained 300 fatalities and thousands of injuries during the latest reporting year across the state.

vulnerable road user ordinance

City passes the first Vulnerable Road User law

The city of Dunwoody, just a short drive from Atlanta, has passed the strictest law in this state protecting pedestrians of bicyclists from dangers posed by cars and other types of vehicles. In November 2019, the Dunwoody City Council passed a “Vulnerable Road User” law that gives protection not only to pedestrians and bicyclists, but also to skateboarders, scooter riders, and motorcyclists.

City Councilman Tom Lambert has said that the ordinance passed by Dunwoody goes further than the current state law and imposes harsher penalties for drivers who strike or act aggressively towards a vulnerable roadway user.

“I hope we can be an inspiration to neighboring municipalities, other cities throughout the state,” said Lambert when speaking about the ordinance. The ordinance implements the following:

  • vehicles must be at least 3 feet away from a bicycle when passing one
  • drivers are banned from throwing anything at a vulnerable road user
  • drivers cannot make an unsafe turn in front of a vulnerable road user
  • drivers cannot maneuver their vehicles in ways that would cause “intimidation or harassment” towards a vulnerable roadway user

Drivers are only allowed to enter into an opposite-direction lane to pass a cyclist if it is safe to do so. If they cannot do so safely, they must stay behind the bike.

What are the penalties for violating the Vulnerable Road User law?

Dunwoody has significantly increased the penalty for violating the law. Councilman Lambert said that they wanted there to be serious consequences. Drivers who break the Vulnerable Road User law could face:

  • A $1,000 fine
  • A suspension of their driver’s license
  • Up to 6 months in jail or probation

The penalties may be reduced or waived if the driver goes through a driver safety and pedestrian awareness class.

What does the future hold for other areas around Georgia?

The Vulnerable Road User law in Dunwoody goes into effect on May 1, 2020. This gives the city time to educate residents about the new rules and penalties associated with breaking the law.

Will this local city law become a model for other areas around Georgia?

The answer to that is left to be seen. There is no doubt that pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users are at a higher risk of injuries or fatalities in the event they are in a collision with a vehicle. It is not uncommon for victims in these incidents to sustain the following injuries:

  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Severe lacerations
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Whiplash injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Concussions

These injuries can be life-threatening and leave victims with permanent disabilities and tremendous medical expenses. Laws designed to protect vulnerable roadway users could be a valuable tool that municipalities can use.

Posted in: Car Accidents

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