New Law Aims to Reduce Bicycle Accidents in California
On September 23, 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 1371 into law, enacting the Three Feet for Safety Act. The new law, set to take effect on September 16, 2014, aims to reduce bicycle accidents in California by requiring motor vehicles to keep a safe distance when passing bicycles on the highway and providing for monetary penalties when they fail to do so. Negligent, reckless and aggressive driving is responsible for thousands of bicycle accidents in California every year, many of them causing serious personal injury or wrongful death.
Existing law already requires drivers to pass bicycles on the left at a safe distance without interfering with their safe operation. The new law elaborates on what a “safe distance” is, first by requiring the driver to consider the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bike, prevailing traffic conditions, the weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the roadway. In addition, the new law imposes a minimum safe distance of three feet before passing.
If the driver is unable to provide three feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle, the driver is to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed and may pass the bike only when it is safe to do so.
Violation of this law, codified at sections 21750 and 21760 of the California Vehicle Code, is an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. If the violation results in a collision where the rider is injured, an additional $220 monetary penalty will also be imposed.
AB 1371 was introduced by Assemblymember Steven Bradford, representing parts of Los Angeles and other southern California communities including Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, El Segundo, Marina del Rey and others. According to the Senate Floor Analysis of AB 1371, at least 32 states have laws requiring drivers to exercise caution when passing bicyclists, and 22 states require a safe distance of three feet for passing.