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New California Law, Three Feet for Safety Act, Protects Bicyclists from Cars

On September 16, 2014, the Three Feet for Safety Act became the law in California.  Under California Veh. Code § 21760, car drivers must provide bicyclists with three feet of space when passing.  Violators will be fined $35 if they drive too close to a bicyclist; a $220 fine will be imposed if a cyclist is injured when a driver is violating the 3-foot buffer.  However, that is not the real deterrent.   For years, insurance companies were able to limit bicyclists claims due to the requirement that drivers only provide an undefined "safe" distance when passing a bike on the road.  Now that the "safe" distance is defined as three feet, lawyers for bicyclists should seek negligence per se instructions finding that accidents caused by drivers passing bikes within three feet should be liable.   This is a significant change in California law.     In 2012, 150 bicyclists died after collisions with automobiles in California alone.  In Los Angeles County, nearly 5,000 people were killed or injured the same year after collisions with cars.   Hopefully, the Three Feet for Safety Act drops those numbers, even though the insurance companies are going to keep fighting bicyclists' claims.   If you need a bicycle lawyer in Los Angeles, call Kristensen Weisberg, LLP at (310) 507-7924 or email klg@kristensenlaw.com.  David Weisberg and John Kristensen have both tried cases on behalf of bicyclists maimed by vehicles. Here is the text of the Three Feet for Safety Act:

21760.  (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the Three Feet for Safety Act.

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass in compliance with the requirements of this article applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and shall do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway. (c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. (d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway. (e) (1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty-five dollars ($35). (2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two-hundred-twenty-dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver. (f) This section shall become operative on September 16, 2014.  

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