Connecticut pedestrian accidents: new data and a new law

Connecticut will impose a $1,000 fine on motorists who injure vulnerable road users like pedestrians beginning Oct., 2014.

On May 16, 2014, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a new law that will fine negligent motorists who cause "serious" physical harm or death to "vulnerable users" of public roads. The law will take effect in Connecticut on Oct. 1, 2014, opening such drivers up to fines up to $1,000.

In legislative reports, legislators and others stated that the purpose of the bill is to keep pedestrians safe and to raise driver awareness of the potential for pedestrian accidents.

The law specifically defines who a vulnerable user is by providing eight specific categories:

  • Pedestrians
  • Highway workers
  • People riding or driving animals, presumably most often horses
  • People riding bicycles
  • People using skateboards, or in-line or roller skates
  • People on tractors
  • People using wheelchairs or other motorized chairs
  • People who have blindness and their service animals

While the law does not use the word "negligent," its assigns culpability to a motorist who "fails to exercise reasonable care," language often used to describe what it means to exhibit negligent behavior. Indeed, in the official Bill Analysis by the Office of Legislative Research, the summary says that "reasonable care" is "the degree of caution and concern for one's own and others' safety that an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the circumstances."

Again, this language describes how a driver would act when not negligent. The law does specify, however, that the vulnerable user must also have been using reasonable care at the time of the accident or the motorist cannot be fined.

When the law takes effect, evidence that a driver was found in violation might be useful evidence in a civil lawsuit. For example, in Connecticut violation of a law can mean that negligence is automatically established, a concept called negligence per se.

Pedestrian accident data

A new study provides the numbers to back up the purposes of this new law. According to the Connecticut Post, the National Complete Streets Coalition recently released its Dangerous by Design 2014, a report of the organization's findings about each state's "pedestrian dangers." The article reports these findings:

  • Connecticut ranks 27th in pedestrian safety.
  • Between 2003 and 2013, 351 pedestrians were killed on Connecticut streets; 75 of these were in the area of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford.
  • The top three Connecticut counties for pedestrian deaths were Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven.
  • Almost one-third of pedestrians killed during this period were senior citizens.
  • The rate of pedestrian death rises with the speed limit.

From the study's data, the report calculates a called the pedestrian danger index:

  • National average: 52.2
  • Connecticut: 35
  • Vermont: 13
  • Florida: 168.6

Seek legal counsel

Anyone in Connecticut who is injured as a pedestrian, cyclist, or while engaging in another similar nonmotorized use of the road should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer about potential legal remedies.

Keywords: Connecticut, fine, motorist, driver, injury, vulnerable user, pedestrian accident, data, law, negligence, reasonable care