The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 124 Californians lost their lives in fatal bicycle accidents in 2012, accounting for 4.3 percent of all traffic deaths. The agency recommends several ways that cyclists can remain safe, such as riding in numbers, wearing a helmet and obeying traffic laws.
However, it is important to note that motorists are also responsible for maintaining safety on the road. The California legislature put that sentiment in action, passing the Three Feet for Safety Act that seeks to prevent a serious or fatal accident. The act mandates that drivers give cyclists a buffer zone of 3 feet when attempting to pass. There are several consequences surrounding violating the act:
- A motorist who does not provide ample room will be fined $35.
- If a violation of the law results in a collision, the fine will increase to $220.
- When a collision occurs, the motorist will face the increased fine as well as court fees and other possible penalties.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles suggests that in order to determine a safe distance for passing cyclists, motorists should take into account the size of their vehicle as well as current traffic conditions. If passing does not appear safe, drivers should slow their vehicles and wait to pass until conditions improve.
Bicyclists can help drivers stay on the right side of the law by increasing their visibility, wearing bright clothing and using both reflective devices and flashing lights. Additionally, California law requires that five or more cars waiting behind cyclists must be able to pass before those on bicycles can take the lane. Working together, motorists and bicyclists can reduce the number of accidents that occur.