New Brookhaven law further punishes drivers who hit pedestrians, cyclists

Brookhaven leaders passed a new law to further protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Brookhaven leaders passed a new law to further protect cyclists and pedestrians.

Credit: City of Brookhaven

Credit: City of Brookhaven

Drivers in Brookhaven will soon need to be even more cautious near cyclists and pedestrians because of a new law the city passed.

The Brookhaven City Council passed a “vulnerable road user" ordinance Tuesday, which aims to protect pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, scooter riders and others on the road who are not operating a motor vehicle. The new law creates a separate offense for driving a motor vehicle in a way that causes injury to someone using those modes of transportation.

The ordinance, which will go into effect in 2021, will require drivers to maintain a distance of at least three feet from vulnerable road users to avoid a collision. In addition, drivers must yield the right of way to those groups when making a turn at an intersection and should use caution when passing a vulnerable road user on the road.

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The punishment for violating the new law is up to a $500 fine. On repeat offenses, the fine could increase to $1,000, driving privileges could be suspended or the violator could be incarcerated for up to six months.

However, cyclists and pedestrians have their own role to play in maintaining safety. They must stay at the right side of the lane whenever possible, and bicycles must use a white light at night.

The law mirrors legislation that went into effect earlier this year in Dunwoody, which was the first law of its kind to be enacted in Georgia.

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During the creation process of both laws, city leaders said that the coronavirus pandemic has led to more foot traffic on surface streets, creating more opportunities for collisions. Brookhaven Councilwoman Madeleine Simmons, who sponsored the city’s ordinance, said distracted driving is also a common culprit in pedestrian incidents.

“Our community should always feel safe walking and riding through our neighborhoods and this ordinance helps make sure that happens,” she said in a news release.

The ordinance was part of Brookhaven’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trail Plan, which was adopted in 2016.

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