New Law Requires Three Foot Buffer Zone Around Cyclists

On September 16, a new law goes into effect requiring drivers to leave three feet of buffer space when passing a cyclist. California’s current passing law states that drivers must leave a “safe distance,” but it does not specify how far.

Cycling enthusiasts hope the new law will help protect bicyclists from aggressive drivers, who kill dozens of cyclists every year. Many of the supporters are family members who have lost loved ones in cycling accidents, like a Chula Vista couple whose son was killed on August 8.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar laws in 2011 and 2012, arguing that certain provisions could have been dangerous. Certain drafts of the bill would have allowed drivers to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist, or required them to slow down to 15 mph when passing within three feet.

Brown argued that these conditions could lead to more accidents or make the state liable for damages. He signed the final draft into law in September 2013, and it is finally going into effect one year later.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sponsored the law, which also drew support from several San Diego cycling groups. The mayor himself is an avid cyclist who was injured in a bike accident in 2010.

Could New Laws Help Protect Cyclists?

The new law is a big step towards protecting San Diego cyclists, but some argue the penalties are too lenient. Violating the three-foot requirement could be punished by fines starting at $35, and drivers who crash and injure a cyclist only face a $220 fine.

Cyclists are some of the most vulnerable users on the road. Even at low speeds, a collision could lead to serious injuries, and hospital bills tend to cost more than $220.

Civil attorney Joshua Bonnici is an avid cyclist, and he has been dedicated to protecting San Diego bicycle riders for almost 10 years. If you have been injured in an accident, talk to an attorney who knows cycling. Schedule a free consultation with Joshua Bonnici today.

[Did You Know: At least 22 states and the District of Columbia define a safe passing distance as a buffer of at least 3 feet.]

Bonnici Law Group, APC—San Diego bicycle accident lawyer