Legislative Report 2016

transportation_negotiations.jpgLocal Motion focused on two significant pieces of legislation in the 2016 legislative session. Significant progress was made on both, but we have a lot of work to do in the coming years.

H.560 passed the House this session with two important provisions.

  • Increased use of ignition interlock devices to prevent driving drunk
  • Increased penalties for DUI citations causing death or serious injury to vulnerable users

FACT: MADD estimates when a person is stopped for drunk driving, they have already driven drunk 40 times, yes four, zero...

H. 876 (the big Transportation bill) passed the House with

  • The 4-foot safe passing distance specified, in addition to the current "due care" precaution. During Senate deliberations, the specification was downgraded to a recommended.
  • Safe turning: requiring vehicles to yield to vulnerable users when turning, just as any vehicles are required to yield when turning across traffic moving in the same or opposing direction today. Left turns made it through conference committee, but not right turns.
  • Clarification of when bicyclists who  ‘generally shall ride to the right’ as specified in Title 23, may ride to the left or in the left lane. Language updated to reflect safety concerns.
  • In addition, the transportation bill defined an eBike, which is surging in popularity, a much-needed step to clearly inform when an eBike does and does not need to be registered and insured.
  • The Senate Transportation Committee disagreed with the approach the House took, and instead directed VTrans to spend $100,000 on "share the road" messaging.

FACT: NHTSA reports that the most common action that threatens people on bikes is driving too close. Safe passing laws that specify distance increase the opportunities for education and enforcement.

The two committees came together in conference and approved a 'recommended' 4-foot safe passing distance as well as an increase in the use of ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving. The compromise required by the Senate was an increase in the fine for bicyclists riding two abreast who impede traffic from $25 to $100. (However, Vermont law has no definition of impedes, so enforcement will be problematic.)

You can read a summary of the changes in Act 147 and 158 courtesy of our friends at DMV enforcement. For law enforcement officers a distillation of new laws passed is essential for them to fulfill their role in educating the public and when necessary enforcing the laws. DMV bulletins to law enforcement professionals aid in this communication. The excerpt below covers changes for vulnerable users, ignition interlock devices and eBikes.


(click for full bulletin or read an excerpt below) 

Act No. 158 (H.876) An act relating to the transportation capital program and miscellaneous changes to transportation-related law.

Vulnerable Users
• Section 39 - 44: 23 V.S.A. § 1033, 1035, 1047, 1049, 1064, 1136, 1139, and 1142. Amends current laws regarding safe passing to provide the duty of motor vehicles to exercise due care when passing vulnerable users which includes increasing clearance to a recommended distance of at least four feet. Amended the duties of a vehicle when it crosses to the left of the center of a highway in order to prohibit the vehicle from passing unless the passing movement can be made without interfering with a vulnerable user. Requires drivers of vehicles entering a highway from a private road to yield the right of way to vulnerable users approaching on the highway. Grants bicyclist flexibility to not give hand signals when turning (or when significantly slowing down), and to not give such signals continuously for 100 feet when the bicyclist cannot give the signals safely. Amends current law governing duties of vehicles turning left to establish a duty to turn left only when the turn can be made at a “safe distance” from a vulnerable user. Amends the existing standard that bicyclists must generally ride as near to the right side of a roadway as is “practicable” to specify that bicyclists must ride as near to the right of the improved area of the highway right-of-way as is “safe.” Amends the existing law that creates exceptions for when a bicyclist must ride to the left in a roadway to allow, but not require, bicyclists to ride to the left when taking precautions to avoid hazards and road conditions and provides examples of such hazards. Lastly raises from $25.00 to $100.00 the maximum penalty for violating the law that requires bicyclists to ride no more than two abreast and not to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic when riding two abreast.

Ignition Interlock Devices
• Section 45-52: Ignition Interlock Devices makes several changes to Vermont’s current law governing DUI suspensions and ignition interlock restricted driver’s licenses (RDLs), including establishing an “ignition interlock certificate” for nonresidents. Eliminates “hard” suspension periods prior to eligibility for an ignition interlock RDL or certificate except in the case of a person whose offense involves death or serious bodily injury to another person or involves refusal of a law enforcement officer’s reasonable request for an evidentiary test. Makes operation under an ignition interlock RDL or certificate “mandatory” for a second or subsequent DUI offenders by requiring such offenders to operate under an RDL or certificate prior to being eligible for reinstatement of their regular operator’s license or privilege to operate. Eliminates requirements that a person operates under an RDL for a period longer than his or her initial suspension period as well as eliminating the requirement that a person is enrolled in an Alcohol and Driving Education Program prior to being eligible to obtain an ignition interlock RDL. A transition provision at the end of the act provides that the provision of the act that requires operation under an ignition interlock RDL as a condition of eligibility for reinstatement of the operator’s license or privilege to operate of a second or subsequent DUI offender shall apply only in connection with a second or subsequent DUI offense that occurs on or after July 1, 2016.

Refusal to take an evidentiary test (CT1,CT2,CT3,CT4,CT5, 21C,21D) convictions are now eligible for RDL use following a hard suspension of:
 1st offense – 30 days
 2nd offense – 90 days
 3rd or subsequent – 1 year plus Total abstinence Program
A person choosing to use an IID for their first offense must have the device for 90-days without any extensions.
IID use is mandatory for reinstatement for second and subsequent driving under the influence convictions unless waived due to a medical exemption (inability to blow one liter of breath into the machine), or the conviction resulted solely from drug use
 2nd offense – 18 months
 3rd or subsequent – 3 years plus Total Abstinence Program
DUI with death or serious bodily injury resulting carry a one-year hard suspension that must be served prior to applying for an RDL or Ignition Interlock Certificate
IID manufacturers and providers must agree to provide a discount of 50% to applicants who prove receipt of 3SquaresVT, LIHEAP, Reach Up, or like benefits from another state
Persons under 21 with an alcohol concentration of .02 or more are eligible to apply for an RDL or Ignition Interlock Certificate which must be used for the following length of time if the applicant chooses to apply:
(1) 1st offense – 6 months
(2) 2nd or subsequent – 1 year or until 21st birthday, whichever is longer

Motor Assisted Bicycles
• Section 56: 23 V.S.A. § 4 Motor-assisted Bicycles. Defines “motor-assisted bicycle” to mean a bicycle or tricycle with fully operable pedals that is equipped with a motor that has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts or 1.3 horsepower and is itself capable of producing a top speed of no more than 20 miles per hour on a paved level surface when ridden by an operator who weighs up to 170 pounds. Provides that motor-assisted bicycles are generally to be governed by Vermont laws applicable to bicycles, and are exempt from registration, licensing, and inspection requirements; may not be operated on a sidewalk in Vermont, and may not be operated on a Vermont highway by a person under 16 years of age.