May 26, 2021

Sen. Haskell Leads Senate Passage of Legislation Strongly Benefitting Pedestrian and Road Safety

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee, led the Senate passage of legislation that makes significant quality-of-life improvements for road safety statewide. The bill seeks to improve safety requirements in a variety of contexts, including granting pedestrians with increased right-of-way, increasing the fine for texting while driving and implements a fine for “dooring,” where a motor vehicle door opening into the path of a pedestrian or cyclist can put that person at risk.

“In 2020, dozens of pedestrians and at least six cyclists died in traffic collisions in Connecticut. That alone makes this legislation worthwhile,” said Sen. Haskell. “But its advantages are even more widespread. The legislation also lets us learn how to better address traffic hazards in the future and makes dangerous activity more expensive for those violating traffic laws. This bill will make Connecticut a safer place to walk, bike and drive. That’s an excellent thing.”

House Bill 5429, “An Act Concerning Pedestrian Safety, Vision Zero Council, Speed Limits in Municipalities, Fines and Charges for Certain Violations, The Greenways Commemorative Account and Maintenance Work Zone and School Zone Safety Enforcement,” provides eight significant changes to current transportation law in a variety of different areas. It:

  • Will require motorists to grant right-of-way to pedestrians affirmatively indicating their intention to cross the road in a crosswalk. A pedestrian would need to be within a portion of the crosswalk, step to the curb at its entrance and indicate intent to cross the roadway by raising a hand or arm toward oncoming traffic or moving any part of their body or an extension of their body, including but not limited to a wheelchair, cane, walking stick, bicycle or crutch. The fine for failing to yield will remain $500.
  • Establishes a “Vision Zero Council” tasked with developing policies aimed at eliminating all fatalities and severe injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, drivers and passengers, recommending annual statewide policy and interagency approaches by February 2022.
  • Prohibits the act of “dooring,” where one causes physical contact between a vehicle door and either moving vehicles like motor vehicles, bicycles and electric scooters or pedestrians or cyclists and other riders by opening a vehicle door or leaving it open longer than necessary to load/unload passengers, where moving traffic is traveling at reasonable speed
    Increases the surcharge paid on certain moving violations including speeding from $20 to $25 and adds dooring to the list of such violations.
  • Allows municipalities to establish speed limits on local roads with approval from local legislative bodies. Pedestrian safety zones with speed limits below general speed limits will be implementable in downtown districts and community centers.
  • Fines for distracted driving will be increased from $150 to $200 for a first violation, with second violations rising from $300 to $375 and third and subsequent violations rising from $500 to $625. These laws generally prohibit using mobile phones and other electronic devices in ways interfering with safe driving.
  • Greenway commemorative plate fees will be deposited into a dedicated account used to fund grant programs for greenways and other bicycle and pedestrian trails.

The legislation passed the Transportation Committee in March by a vote of 30-4 and passed the House by a unanimous 144-0 vote earlier this month. It now proceeds to the Governor’s desk for signing into law.