Legislation: Vulnerable user law for California

Among the plethora of bills introduced in the California legislature last week was AB 2398, a propose Vulnerable User Law introduced by Assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael).

Scofflaw Driver - CVC 22450

Existing law defines the offenses of unsafe operation of a motor vehicle with bodily injury or great bodily injury. Levine’s bill would stack an additional offense if the bodily injury occurs to a “Vulnerable User,” which his bill defines as pedestrians, highway construction and maintenance workers, skaters, people on horseback, people “operating equipment other than a motor vehicle including, but not limited to, a bicycle, in-line skates, roller skates, scooter, or skateboard,” and people operating or using farm tractors.

Fines can range from $145 to $1000. In California, the amount you pay after surcharges and other added fees comes to about four times the base fine amount. This law, if passed as written, also assesses a point against the convicted driver’s license.

Levine’s Assembly District covers all of Marin County and about half of Sonoma County, including the cities of Sonoma, Petaluma, Sebastopol and about 40% of the city of Santa Rosa. Cycling is extremely popular throughout his district.

As a matter of practical politics, I think I would advertise this as a bill to protect highway workers and seek help from that industry to lobby in favor of this bill.

There’s a little more discussion about this vulnerable user act, including the implementation of a similar law in Oregon, and other transportation related bills over at Streetsblog L.A..


  1. Good call on the framing of it as a bill to protect highway workers, I would advise courting them and their union for assistance. Other key groups to mention would be children and the elderly, I’m thinking about some of the recent crashes you have profiled here in SJ, Richard.

  2. I would not say its NOT similar to the Oregon law. The Oregon fine is $12,500, not just $145. People only consider the base value of the fine, and mere $145 is not high enough to be a disincentive. Littering is $1000. Are we sending the message that human life is worth 1/7th of trash?

    I remember reading somewhere that setting fines clearly below disincentive levels can actually have the opposite affect, as the message is sent that society places a low value and priority on the violation.

    The California bill also lacks the licence suspension and community service of the Oregon bill. They could not have watered it down any more.

    I would say propose something actually similar to the Oregon law. If it gets shot down, then the publicity will rally the troops to push for it the next year, until we get a true disincentive. This would send a strong message, which in itself may be worth more than the actual bill. We should not show up to the bargaining table with an extreme low-ball bid which may end up actually costing lives.

    That’s my opinion at least.

  3. We had a near-identical bill passed through both houses unanimously here in TX, only to see Gov. Goodhair veto it.

  4. They should consider expanding the law to cover police and fire personnel and then they could gain additional backing.

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