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Michigan House OKs new penalties for drivers who hit bicyclists, runners

Cycling group training in the morning
Michigan lawmakers are seeking stiffer penalties for drivers who injure other, more vulnerable roadway users, like bicyclists or runners. (Shutterstock)
  • Michigan may soon increase penalties for drivers who injure bikers and other 'vulnerable roadway users' under House-passed bills
  • Proponents say the move increases accountability, though some feel a possible 10-year prison sentence is too severe
  • The bills now go to the Senate for further consideration

LANSING — Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday took steps to impose more stringent penalties on drivers who injure runners, bicyclists and other road users, arguing an extra level of accountability is necessary. 

A pair of bills passed out of the Michigan House Tuesday with bipartisan support are part of a larger bicameral initiative to give prosecutors new options to charge motorists who hit “vulnerable roadway users.”


The effort was inspired in part by a June 2016 crash in Kalamazoo County that killed five bicyclists, injured four more and already prompted a 2018 law that requires drivers to keep a 3-foot distance from cyclists. 

The driver who hit that group, Charles Pickett Jr., was sentenced to decades in prison for murder. But Rep. Julie Rogers, a Kalamazoo Democrat and the legislation’s primary sponsor, contends that many other bicyclists and pedestrians who are hit by vehicles don’t see the same level of justice. 

“Rehabbing through physical pain is challenging enough,” Rogers said. “Equally devastating is when the driver of the vehicle involved in their crash is not held accountable.” 


Current law makes hitting a person operating an “implement of husbandry” — or farming equipment — a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $7,500 or both. 

The new bills, which passed the House in 79-29 and 78-30 votes, would create a somewhat shorter penalty for hitting and killing a person in a “vulnerable transportation device,” defined as something a person or their property can be transported in via the highway or street. 

If found guilty of seriously injuring non-drivers using the road, a driver could receive up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $7,500, or both.

Separate bills pending in the Senate, which must pass in order for the House bills to take effect, define who constitutes a vulnerable roadway user, a term which includes bicyclists, wheelchair users, horse-drawn buggies and more.

The package also creates an additional felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine for a moving violation that causes serious injury to any vulnerable roadway users, including those driving farming equipment. 

Matt Penniman, communications and advocacy director for the League of Michigan Bicyclists, said the legislation is “an important part of a culture change that will one day end road deaths in Michigan.”

U.S. drivers killed an estimated 3,373 pedestrians between January and June in 2023, according to projections from the Governors Highway Safety Association, which oversees state highway and safety offices and their administration of federal funding for highway safety programs.

That was a slight drop from 2022, which saw drivers kill 3,526 pedestrians over the same time frame, but was still a 422 death increase over 2019.

“I am a runner and a cyclist myself, and I know residents in my county who have sustained injuries from being hit by vehicles,” Rogers said, adding that she’s also rehabilitated dozens of individuals who’d been hit by a vehicle while walking, running or biking. 

“They’ve often been re-traumatized when they attempt to engage in the judicial process because there is a lack of strong laws on the books in Michigan regarding vulnerable roadway users,” she said.

Rep. Bill G. Schuette, a Midland Republican and another sponsor on the package, is a runner and said he’s had some “close calls” on the road. Increasing awareness by increasing penalties for injuring those most at risk on Michigan roadways is a “good step to take,” he said. 

Not all are in favor of the change. 


Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Hillsdale, was among the roughly two dozen Republicans who voted against the legislation. He said he was concerned the package doesn’t have enough nuance for less serious moving violations or situations in which the non-driver involved was doing something unsafe.  

Fink said he’s encouraged by efforts in the Senate to amend the bills and “could see a version of this concept getting broader support” if both chambers sort out any discrepancies. 

The House package now heads to the Senate for further consideration. Related Senate bills are still awaiting a vote in the upper chamber.

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