Bicycle accident fatalities hit a 25-year high in California in 2019. With the pandemic, bicycle sales have exploded and as auto traffic resumes so will collisions.
Under California law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. They have a legal right to occupy a lane and use the road. And as vehicles the obligation to follow all traffic rules, including stopping at stop sign just like any other vehicle.
California’s Three Feet For Safety Act
In 2014, California legislators passed the “Three Feet for Safety Act” codified in the California Vehicle Code § 21760. The statute requires drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of space whenever they are making a pass. Similar to other California bicycle accident safety laws, the core purpose of the Three Feet for Safety Act is to prevent collisions between bikes and motor vehicles.
More specifically, the Three Feet for Safety Act was designed to address the long-standing hazards of motorists “buzzing” bicyclists. Buzzing occurs when a driver passes very close to a bicyclist. In some cases, vicious motorists intentionally pass within a few inches of a cyclist. It is insanely dangerous and now illegal. The law requires passing a bicycle 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. At a minimum an overtaking vehicle must be three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.
To be clear, drivers should not pass a bicyclist if there is not enough room to leave at least three feet of space. In that scenario, a motorist simply needs to wait until there is sufficient space to make a safe pass. Any driver who violates the Three Feet for Safety Act is subject to a $35 base fine. When court costs are included, that fine increases to nearly $250. If the violation results in a collision, the driver may be subject to a far larger financial penalty. In addition, the driver will be legally liable for a bicyclist’s injuries.
Negligent Drivers are Liable for Bicycle Accidents
Serious bicycle accident requires an immediate investigation. Collisions should be reported to state or local law enforcement. Under California law, a negligent motorist will be held responsible for bicycle accident injuries. As these are fault-based claims, injured victims need strong, carefully prepared supporting evidence to bring a successful claim. Unlike most car collisions, the usual skids and gouge marks on a roadway are minimal and fade faster than marks in car crashes. Prompt photography of the crash scene, including any alteration of off-road vegetation, is a plus for making a claim. Save as evidence the bicycle, helmet, shoes, gloves and garments. Abraded gear when analyzed against damage on an impacting vehicle will help reconstruct the event.
Cyclists should always operate with an illuminated front and rear red light, preferably flashing to make sure drivers see them. In court, the flashing red light dominates the courtroom. It is great evidence that the bicyclist was careful and safety-minded, as opposed to the motorist who failed to comply with the three feet rule.
Contact Our San Jose Bicycle Accident Injury Lawyers for Immediate Help
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.