New Laws to Protect American Cyclists
Bicycling is one of the most popular ways of getting around. People use them out of necessity, for fun, or for competition. But because they are largely unprotected, bicyclists are at a higher risk of experiencing injuries and even death when they are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle.
No matter how safely you may ride your bicycle, you are always in danger of being hit by a negligent or reckless driver.
To combat the rising number of bicycle accidents, many jurisdictions have considered or implemented new laws designed specifically to protect cyclists. Bicycle safety groups and activists tout these new laws as a step in the right direction. But more must be done — bicycle accidents caused by motor vehicles continue at an unacceptable rate.
Passing Laws to Protect Cyclists
Many bicycle accidents happen when a car is attempting to pass a bicycle. The car or truck driver fails to leave adequate room between their vehicle and the bicycle. The result is an injured or killed bicyclist and a car with very little damage.
In response to this common occurrence, various jurisdictions have put laws on the books that require a specific buffer between a motor vehicle and the bicycle it passes.
For example, New Jersey passed a law in March 2022 that requires drivers to provide a minimum of four feet of distance between themselves and a bicycle they are passing. If the driver can not reasonably allow for four feet, the driver must slow down to 25 mph.
But New Jersey is a little late to the party. Wisconsin put its passing law on the books way back in 1973, and dozens of other states enacted their laws years before New Jersey. Now, there are at least 36 states with bicycle-passing laws and regulations.
Another passing provision found in many states’ bicycle laws is a rule that requires cyclists to ride to the far right of the lane they are transiting in. Doing so, it is thought, gives passing cars more room to pass and helps deepen the buffer zone between a motor vehicle and a bicycle.
Bicycle Laws and a Culture of Motors
Bicycle safety laws, such as the passing laws just discussed, are an important step toward eliminating bicycle accidents, injuries, and deaths. But society won’t register a meaningful decline in bicycle accidents until the culture of motors changes.
Until then, motorists in most states will continue to drive too aggressively around bicyclists, especially when passing. And accidents will continue to occur. But proponents of passing laws and other bicycle safety laws believe that the laws themselves — if enforced — can lead to that necessary change in culture.
Opponents, however, argue that it is simply not practical to enforce passing laws, whether a three-foot or a four-foot buffer is called for. And certain bicyclists in states requiring them to ride to the far right of a lane feel that doing so makes them more likely to crash into opening vehicle doors or individuals crossing the street.
Enforcing the Law
An important element of these bicycle safety rules is their enforcement. Without enforcement, the laws are meaningless. And it is only through this enforcement that more of society will comply with the regulations and adopt them as normal.
The first step in ensuring that any law is enforced is by educating the population about these laws. Public service announcements (PSAs), school campaigns, and community outreach programs are all great ways to educate the public about bicycle safety laws.
Next, the public must heed these laws, and the authorities must be vigilant in their enforcement. After some time, the streets of any area with laws, awareness, and compliance should see a significant downturn in bicycle accidents, especially those caused by motor vehicles while passing.
How Can Cyclists Stay Safe on the Road?
Cyclists can improve their odds of remaining accident-free by knowing and following the rules of the road. And cyclists who end up experiencing an accident have better odds of avoiding serious injury by wearing the proper safety equipment, like helmets.
Additionally, cyclists improve their overall safety profile when they regularly care for their bicycles and keep them in a safe condition.
A Bicycle Accident Attorney Is Ready to Help
Have you suffered injuries and losses due to a bicycle accident? Don’t hesitate to contact Silberstein, Awad & Miklos to learn about the compensation you may be entitled to. Contact our office today for a free consultation and case review with an attorney who cares.