Utah offers heightened protection to vulnerable users of roads

Posted on September 30, 2021

Streets and highways can be dangerous for motorists. Accidents are common and fender-benders are always just a momentary distraction away. But not everyone who uses Utah’s roads are surrounded by a crash-tested metal cage – Utah recognizes the heightened risk for these people and mandates special care for motorists who drive near them.

What are vulnerable users?

Utah Code Section 41-6a-706.5 considers just about anyone who uses its roads, without the benefit of doors or a roof, to be particularly vulnerable to danger. An incident which may be minor to a car or truck can prove deadly to those who do not have the protection provided by a vehicle.

Pedestrians and bicyclists are obvious examples of vulnerable users. But so too are individuals on a skateboard or skates. Motorcycles are included in the definition of vulnerable users, as well as mopeds, electric bicycles, golf carts and wheelchairs. Even open-air tractors are covered by the statute.

Heightened restrictions on motorists

Motorists are required to give space and exercise caution when they are driving near vulnerable users. They cannot knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly drive within three feet of them. They must not distract vulnerable users – or even attempt to distract them – with the intent to injure them. Motorists cannot force a vulnerable user off the road and they have to guard against excessive exhaust from their vehicle.

If a motorist violates the vulnerable user statute, resulting in an injury to the user, they are guilty of a class C misdemeanor. But it’s important to note that actual contact between the vehicle and vulnerable user is not required. A user who is injured, due to the actions of a motorist, may be entitled to compensation even when they are not physically struck by that motorist.