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Three Things We Can Do Now to Make Roads Safer

While this post deals with these three issues from the perspective of bicyclist and pedestrian safety, all of them would make North Carolina safer for us, our families, and our friends.

Replace NC’s Contributory Negligence Law

North Carolina is one of just four states and the District of Columbia to have a contributory negligence provision: if even one percent of the fault of an accident for anyone involved in a crash is assigned to the victim, then 100% of the compensatory damages may be waived. We need to replace this outdated system with a comparative negligence law, or a modified comparative negligence law like that introduced in 2001, 2009 and 2011. In part due to insurance lobbyists and add- ons to the bills, these efforts have thus far failed.

Why It’s Important to North Carolina

Contributory negligence is a rare anachronism that doesn’t accurately assign responsibility and blame to cyclists or anyone else. We were taught from an early age to accept responsibility for our actions; this law fails to uphold that basic principle.

Why It’s Important to Cyclists

Everyone deserves fair treatment in America's judicial system. And when a cyclist or pedestrian is involved in a crash, it is often serious.

Passage of Phoebe’s Law

Speeding in school zones seems unthinkable to many people, but this practice continues in part due to understaffing of enforcement and a lack of monitoring. Phoebe’s Law would allow NC, like many other states, to limit placement of well-marked speed cameras around schools during loading periods. Revenues from fines would accrue to maintenance of the camera program and other education programs.

Why It’s Important to North Carolina

The force of a vehicle as it impacts a pedestrian goes up exponentially as speed increases. This proposal would help monitor school traffic, lower speeds around schools, provide revenues to a state seeking new ways of paying for education, and increase awareness of the importance of safe driving everywhere.

Why It’s Important to Cyclists

Cyclists, including children riding to school, obviously benefit when traffic speeds are slower. More time for drivers to react means more time for a cyclist to take evasive actions as well.

Active Mode Instruction in Driver’s Education

North Carolina’s driver education law (NCGS 115C-216) does not require driver education programs (more resources towards driver education generally, especially for those families unable to afford private classes, is also a good idea) to include non-motorized safety instruction. This simple correction, accompanied by additional materials already available from a number of sources that could be easily provided to instructors, would remedy an important gap in both driver and non-motorized training. A second step would be to include pedestrian and bicyclist information in driver license restoration programs.

Why It’s Important to North Carolina

Our state is progressive in adopting measures such as graduated licensing on safety-based rationales. The lack of training for pedestrians and cyclists would come as a surprise to many, but can be addressed relatively easily.

Why It’s Important to Cyclists

Both cyclists and drivers are frequently accused of “bad behavior;” often, this behavior is caused by a lack of awareness, respect, or knowledge of different road users. This simple change would formally address the problem.

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