Colorado's House Bill 1104 has been skunked, apparently. Frankly I don't find myself all broken up over this development. I admired the spirit of this bill that aimed to increase penalties for dangerous driving but doubt it would have had much practical value. I doubt such a law would prevent much bad driving, and it offers zero help to victims of these wrecks past, present and future.

Introduced by Rep. Don Marostica months ago, the proposed law would have created a new class of misdemeanor traffic infraction for garden-variety failures-to-yield resulting in injury or death: aggravated failure to yield, carrying potential for jail-time. HB 1104 was heartily endorsed by Bicycle Colorado, the state's voice of even-keel bike advocacy, but its real champions, like Marostica, were motorcyclists.

The bill was sailing right along without opposition, then some in the trucking industry got wind of it. Reps from Waste Management and the Teamsters showed up at a public hearing and voiced concerns. Are we really ready to criminalize the type of absent-mindedness that everybody exhibits occasionally, especially our drivers? That's what the bill was getting at. And how are we going to define injury anyway. Their questions, or just the fact that there were questions, seemed to jar lawmakers and the bill emerged from the Senate a very different beast.

HB 1104 AMENDED (pdf)

They inserted the word 'serious' in front of injury, first of all. That helps the drivers but fails to solve the ambiguity problem. What is a 'serious' injury? They broke up the violation into three classes but didn't define the differences. The most severe class would be the class C; it would take two of these class C's to make a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense. The penalty for the class C itself (remember, the worst of three classes of violation resulting in serious injury or death) was set at a casual $400. The law would expire in 2011 (a provision inserted by the House). So they basically watered it down with a firehose. You could even say they took a whiz on it.

According to an update from Bicycle Colorado the congressional sponsors have decided to scuttle the eviscerated legislation.

I think this bill was kind of barking up the wrong tree anyway. Doling out harsher penalties for dangerous driving is a good idea, generally speaking, but let's get at it on the front side, too, before it's already too late. Make it tougher for people to get driver's licenses. They hand 'em out like candy. Raise the driving age to 18. Educate drivers on the problems associated with visibility of low-profile road users like bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. After all, these violations generally aren't failures-to-yield, that's an inadequate and misleading way of looking at it. They're failures-to-notice. You can't penalize that kind of common retardation out of existence no matter how hard you try.