A bill advanced by the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee is personal for Rep. Mary Jo Daley.
Three years ago, her 23-year-old niece was walking through a Philadelphia crosswalk legally when she was struck by a vehicle and died.
Rep. Brett Miller’s “Vulnerable Highway User” bill would require motorists to stay at least four feet away from pedestrians, houses and buggies and other vehicles that are in the roadway lawfully or face additional financial penalties.
“Drivers are getting impatient and see people who use the road lawfully as a problem or something that is a bother,” Miller told the committee this week. “Motorists have an extra duty of care when dealing with a vulnerable highway user.”
The bill was introduced last session and passed the House and the Senate Transportation Committee, but time ran out prior to the bill’s final passage.
Miller pointed out the measure would only apply to people in the roadway legally. Some lawmakers questioned how the law would apply to protesters. Miller pointed out that the law applies to anyone injured while they were lawfully in the roadway.
“What they are doing does not apply,” Miller said.
The vehicle code requires pedestrians in roadways but outside a crosswalk to yield to motorists, committee staffer Josiah Shelly said.
The bill passed unanimously.
The committee also passed a bill that would allow religious institutions to have a two-sided sign on the roadways.
Rep. John Lawrence introduced House Bill 1985 after a church in his district was told their sign, which had been in place for 30 years, technically violated provisions of the Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971.
“While hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such church signs have existed across the Commonwealth for decades without issue, PennDOT has become more aggressive in enforcing the letter of the law in recent days,” Lawrence said in the bill’s memo. “To be very clear, this sign is similar to the type of sign that practically every church in America has in front of it.”
Lawrence said he recently learned the sign was covered by a federal law. The bill passed the committee unanimously.