Thursday, December 4, 2008

Proposal to increase crash damage threshold

Last year Senator Creigh Deeds introduced Senate Bill 39, "Traffic accident reports; increases amount of damage threshold to be reported by law enforcement." The bill would raise the vehicle damage threshold for requiring a written police report from $1,000 to $1,500.

This change could have an impact on reporting of bicycle crashes. For most of us, the current threshold is too high. Most cyclists ride bikes valued much less than $1,500. As we mentioned earlier, in Oregon bicyclists are considered vulnerable roadway users. Different criteria for reporting crashes are being used based on the new vulnerable roadway users bill.

According to Bike Portland, Portland police have lowered the threshold for reporting a crash that involves an injury to a vulnerable user. With Sen. Deeds bill, Virginia would be going in the other direction, leading to fewer bicycle crash reports.

Below is the text of a letter sent to Senator Deeds. While the idea of having no damage threshold for bicycle crashes is not realistic, there needs to be a middle ground. We'll pass on any response that we receive:

Dear Sen. Deeds,

I am concerned about the impact that SB39 will have on bicyclists involved in crashes. Currently many bicycle crashes go unreported because the damage to the bicycle, which is almost always less than $1000, does not meet the reporting threshold. Raising that threshold to $1500 will only make the situation worse.

Because bicyclists are especially vulnerable users of the roadway, they should have special protections. We would like to see all bicycle crashes reported to obtain a better picture of the problem that is currently grossly under-reported. We also would like to see justice. All too often bicycle crash victims are marginalized in a traffic crash reporting and judicial system centered on motor vehicles.

I am asking if you would consider including an exception to the proposed $1500 threshold when a bicycle is involved in a crash. One option could read: "A. Every law-enforcement officer who in the course of duty investigates a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or total property damage to an apparent extent of $1,000 [ $1,500 ] or more except for bicycle crashes, which would require no damage threshold],".

If at all possible I would like to discuss this issue with your staff.


Bruce Wright
Chairman, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling

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