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Change in Hit-and-Run Legislation Needed

By - February 2, 2015

On Thursday night the cycling community lost yet another rider to a hit-and-run, this time outside of Hagerstown. John Bushman, Sr. was pronounced dead at the scene after a car struck him. The vehicle was found Friday afternoon, but no other details have yet been released.

We do not yet know the circumstances behind John Bushman, Sr.’s death, but whatever they are, this is the third cyclist killed by a hit-and-run in as many months. Many more pedestrians have been killed and injured in the same amount of time. One happened last night. I think about the selfishness of hitting and leaving someone to die as I prepare my testimony for Senator Bryon Simonaire’s two hit-and-run bills on Wednesday, February 4th. Senate Bill 84 increases the penalties for failing to remain on the scene from ten years to fifteen years. The idea is that ten years is not enough to motivate people to render aid; drivers are striking and leaving pedestrians and bicyclists too frequently. By increasing the penalty another five years we will hopefully persuade people that the risk of discovery after a hit-and-run is not worth it, and they will take immediate responsibility for their actions and render aid.

Senate Bill 86 dictates the creation of a hit-and-run “yellow” alert system, much like what we have for missing children and elderly persons. Colorado put in place a similar system in 2014, and Denver and Aurora had this system before. As of March 2014, Denver employed the alert system 17 times, and in 13 of these cases it led to an arrest. Bike Maryland supports this alert system for the quick apprehension of hit-and-run suspects. Quick apprehension will encourage would-be runners to stay and render aid, showing them that they will be caught and they will face fifteen years and a felony charge.

Our cycling community has lost three cyclists to hit-and-runs in the last two and a half months: Dwight Calvin Johnson on November 24th, Tom Palermo on December 27th, and John Bushman, Sr. on January 29th. Senator Simonaire’s legislation is reactionary, it will not prevent collisions and people will still get hurt and/or die, but unfortunately this legislation is necessary. Yet again, someone chose to flee over taking responsibility for their actions. Yet again, someone chose to leave a man dying on the side of the road. As we continue working for better bicycling in the state of Maryland our desire is for better infrastructure and awareness so there are no more bicycle and pedestrian deaths on our roadways, let alone hit-and-runs.

It is not too late to testify at the hearing for the two hit-and-run bills. If you would like to submit written testimony you must submit it to Senator Simonaire’s office by end of day 2/3. If you would like to give oral testimony you must confirm with the office by the same time. If you are not signed up ahead of time you will not be able to testify.

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