natasha_pettigrewNatasha Pettigrew was an experienced cyclist and triathlete.Photo: via TBDNatasha Pettigrew, a Maryland Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, died on Sept. 20 after a Cadillac Escalade struck her while she was bicycling. The 30-year-old was training for a triathlon about an hour before sunrise. The driver didn’t stop and didn’t call police until hours later, when she found the bike still wedged under her damaged vehicle. Charges still have not been filed against her, The Washington Post reports.

Pettigrew’s mother, Kenniss Henry, took her daughter’s place in the longshot Senate campaign (which was unsuccessful). Today, the Post reports on Henry’s next campaign:

Her new focus is advocating in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill for bicycle safety laws and tougher penalties for drivers who strike and kill bicyclists.

Henry said she is working on building contacts with state officials and she will lobby the Maryland General Assembly next year for stronger state vehicular manslaughter laws aimed at drivers who hit and kill bicyclists … Henry said she wants drivers who strike and seriously injure or kill cyclists to receive more than just a slap on the wrist and a fine.

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“Slap on the wrist” is an apt description of how Maryland treats hit-and-runs, ABC 7 reports:

Traffic safety experts consider the state’s statutes on vehicular manslaughter among the most lenient in the country. A prosecutor must prove gross negligence or some kind of intent to kill or maim in order to charge and convict.

“Virtually no one is charged with this crime, because proving it is so hard in court,” said John Townsend of AAA MidAtlantic.

We’ve written in the past about the many other cases in which drivers who harm cyclists get off with light penalties. Henry says she’s also going to lobby lawmakers to dedicate funding for wider bike lanes and other road improvements to improve bike safety. That’s admirable. But no amount of infrastructure will be sufficient if we continue to treat vehicular manslaughter so cavalierly.

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