Group pushes for harsher penalties after wrong-way driver strikes and kills motorcyclist

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- Motorcycle riding season is approaching, and a lobbyist group wants to make sure vehicle drivers pay a fair penalty if they are involved in an accident that injures or kills a rider.

The lobbyist group ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) says there are more distracted drivers behind the wheel, which poses increased  dangers for riders.  And they add that the law isn't prompting car and truck drivers to change their behaviors.

"People that have the right-of-way, even in cars, if you have the right-of-way and somebody else pulls out in front of you, sometimes they are not being ticketed," said Tony Rawls-Riley, an ABATE of Kansas representative. "Right-of-way law is for everybody."

Five months ago, Ryan Scott, of Wamego, Kan., died while riding his motorcycle. A driver traveling the wrong way down Kansas Highway 24 struck and killed him.

The courts imposed a fine of only $153 on the vehicle driver.

Motorcyclists like Rawls-Riley are outraged by that.

"I think it’s sad," Rawls-Riley said. "Somebody was definitely in the wrong. So often somebody was definitely in the wrong and I’ve gotten a higher ticket for running stop sign. I’ve had to pay more."

Rawls-Riley suffered a cracked rib when a vehicle driver veered over the center line and forced his motorcycle off the road.

He thinks tougher penalties and remedial driver education would go a long way toward making the streets safer.

If approved by Kansas lawmakers, the proposal would boost fines up to $1,000 for any driver responsible for the death of a person in a collision.