Maryland adds protection for cyclists

Increases punishment for negligent drivers

Maryland’s General Assembly made state’s streets safer for cycling when it recently passed House Bill 363, making criminally negligent drivers responsible for the death of a person in an automobile-bicycle incident and punishable by up to three years in prison.

After months of deliberation, the bill was passed in April and will take affect on 1 October, 2011.

“The passage of HB363 is extremely important in making Maryland's roads safer and our judicial system more equitable,” said Carol Silldorff, an advocate with the Baltimore Bicycle Club, told BikeRadar. “Early in May the bill will be signed into law by the Governor and it will become effective on October. Bike Maryland worked very hard on this issue and we are proud of this legislative success.”

Previous to House Bill 363, a negligent driver who killed a cyclist would be summoned to traffic court and face a maximum fine of US$300. “With this new law, prosecutors will have the option of seeking a higher penalty for those motorists who are clearly and knowingly driving dangerously and illegally,” Silldorff said. “This new standard has a maximum penalty of $5000 and three years of jail time. Approximately 20 states have similar laws.”

The Manslaughter by Vehicle, or Vessel, Criminal Negligence bill will make it a misdemeanor for a person to cause the death of another as a result of the person's driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner. In addition, the bill establishes the circumstances under which a person is considered to act in a criminally negligent manner.

The bill also states:

  • (A) In this section, “vehicle” includes a motor vehicle, streetcar, locomotive, engine, and train.
  • (B) A person may not cause the death of another as the result of the person’s driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a criminally negligent manner.
  • (C) For purposes of this section, a person acts in a criminally negligent manner with respect to a result or a circumstance when: (1) the person should be aware, but fails to perceive, that the person’s conduct creates a substantial risk that such a result will occur; and (2) the failure to perceive constitutes a substantial deviation from the standard of care that would be exercised by a reasonable person.
  • (D) It is not a violation of this section for a person to cause the death of another as the result of the person’s driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a negligent manner.
  • (E) A violation of this section is criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle or vessel.
  • (F) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding US$5,00 or both.

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