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Louisiana proposes bill to protect pedestrians

Louisianans known as "vulnerable road users" (VRUs) may soon be better protected by state law, at least if stiffer penalties for drivers who injure or kill them count as better protection.

Last month, the House Transportation Committee advanced a bill that would authorize studying increased fines for motor vehicle drivers who hurt a VRU.

VRU, as a term for on-foot and two-wheeled travelers, is common among experts, advocates and supporters of the bill.

Louisiana not a leader in VRU safety

Projections for 2019 are that fatalities among VRUs in Louisiana will increase over those in 2018, when 79 motorcyclists, 163 pedestrians, and 29 cyclists were killed in the state.

In comparison with other states, Louisiana doesn't fare especially well when it comes to its attention to VRUs.

One evaluation of our mediocre showing comes from the League of American Bicyclists, which maintains a report card ranking Bicycle Friendly States. Their most recent report card puts our state at 29th, just above Alabama among Southern states.

Where we fall especially short, according to the Bike League, is in how much of our Federal Highway Administration funds we allocate to bicycling and walking projects.

Here, we rank 47th among the 50 states, spending only 93 cents per year for each Louisianan to keep them safe as vulnerable road users.

Almost every Louisianan is a part-time VRU

To the rest of the world, possibly the most iconic Louisiana visitor experience is being a VRU on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

At the recent meeting of the state House Transportation Committee, current fines for injuring a pedestrian were said to be sometimes as low as $250.

District 54 Representative Jerry "Truck" Gisclair observed, "If you are going to cause a fatality, you should not have the privilege to drive again immediately."

The bill authorizing a study of increased penalties advanced without objection.

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