New Law Requires Drivers Give Cyclists More Room on the Road

Drivers must give cyclists a new 3-foot buffer zone when passing or face a fine

By Conan Nolan and R. Stickney
|  Friday, Dec 27, 2013  |  Updated 12:54 PM PDT
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Deadly Bus Into Bicyclists Crash Investigated

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There are some new state laws that take effect in 2014 and will be felt by every driver on the road.

One of them aims to make our roads safer for bicyclists by giving them more room to ride. Another involves using your phone while driving.

More and more cyclists are competing and frequently losing out when they try to use their share of the road. California Highway Patrol Officer Adrian Quintero said, "Statewide we are seeing a huge increase in bicycle crashes and deaths."

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In San Diego, cyclist Udo Heinz was killed August 4 when he and two other cyclists were hit by a North County Transit District bus on Camp Pendleton.

Gerson Archila of Sherman Oaks can relate. He has had his share of close calls nearly every day as he navigates Ventura Boulevard.

"Where people actually try pin me against parked cars," Archila said.

A new California law will require drivers to give those on bikes at least a 3-foot wide clearance when passing them on the road.

"You'll have to pay for it if a cop sees you not giving him that berth," Archila said.

If there isn’t room on the road for a 3-foot distance, the driver must slow down and wit to pass when there is no danger to the bicyclist.

The law is in response to the growing popularity of cycling. Current law requires a driver to keep a safe distance when passing a bicyclist but does not specify how far that is.

At least 22 states and the District of Columbia define a safe passing distance as a buffer of at least 3 feet, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

The law will go into effect Sept. 16, 2014.

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A violation of the new 3-foot requirement would be punishable by fines starting at $35. If unsafe passing results in a crash that injures the cyclist, the driver could face a $220 fine.

Among other laws affecting drivers set to take effect in 2014:

A new hands-free texting law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Texting while driving is already against the law but soon teenagers won’t be able to use voice recognition texting such as Apple’s SIRI either.

Also, Amber Alerts, often spotted on large highway signs, will soon include abductions by a child’s custodial parent or guardian. Under current law, the alert system is used when a child is in danger or abducted by a stranger.

Limousines will be required to have a breakaway window in the passenger compartment behind the driver in reaction to a horrific accident in the Bay Area where 5 women burned to death when their limo caught fire on the way to a bachelorette party.

California law will give law enforcement officers more time to track down hit-and-run drivers by extending the statute of limitations from three to six years.

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