Rep. Paul Harris pushes for review of negligent driving penalties with new bill

The bill would allow judges, at their discretion, to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim.

The bill would allow judges, at their discretion, to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim

Rep. Paul Harris is continuing his effort to protect vulnerable victims of accidents with a bill aimed at holding negligent drivers accountable.

House Bill 1112, which was heard in the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee on Monday, is similar to a bill Harris introduced last year. House Bill 1972 passed out of the House Public Safety Committee, but never made it to the House floor for a vote.

Rep. Paul Harris
Rep. Paul Harris

“I worked hard to get this bill passed last year, and it had support from both sides, but unfortunately it fell short,” said Harris, R-Vancouver. “However, I feel strongly about this issue and that’s why I’ve reintroduced this legislation again this year.”

The bill would allow judges, at their discretion, to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim. It would also create a gross misdemeanor offense of negligent driving with a vulnerable victim in the first degree.

“Right now, a person can get into a car, swat at a bug, and be fined $250 whether they hit a mailbox or a human,” noted Harris. “Judges need the discretion to be able to treat these cases differently.”

HB 1112 would allow for a person to be found guilty of an offense when he or she operates a vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property and causes the death of a vulnerable user of a public way.

The offense would be punishable by up to 364 days of imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, which may not be reduced below $1,000, and suspension of driving privileges for 90 days.

The 2023 legislative session began Jan. 9 and is scheduled to last 105 consecutive days.

Washington State House Republicans, houserepublicans.wa.gov


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