What are California Drivers’ Responsibilities to Bicycles?
California bicyclist fatalities have been on the rise in recent years. According to an annual report from the California Office of Traffic Safety, bicyclist fatalities in the state increased by 27% during the five-year period from 2011 through 2016. Much of the increase may be attributable to the growing popularity of cycling as a cheap and healthy alternative to driving and other means of transportation. However, habits of motorists are playing a role as well.
There are many reasons that accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles occur, some of the most common include:
- Speeding/reckless driving: When a motorist drives recklessly, they are generally in a state of wanton and willful disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of themselves and others. Examples of reckless driving include excessive speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes, and making sharp turns at unsafe speeds. This type of behavior puts bicyclists who are riding nearby in greater danger of an accident.
- Drowsy/fatigued driving: When someone is driving a motor vehicle after working a long shift or not getting enough sleep, they are not always able to see bicyclists who are riding close to them. Drowsy and fatigued driving is especially common among over-the-road truckers and others who drive for a living.
- Driving while intoxicated: Those who operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs tend to either drive recklessly or become drowsy and have slower reaction times. Chemically impaired drivers are a major cause of bicycle accidents in California and throughout the country.
- Dooring: This happens when a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle opens their car door in front of an oncoming bicycle. Dooring can cause the bicyclist to be thrown from their bike, often resulting in serious injuries.
- Turning accidents: When motor vehicles make right or left turns in front of a bicycle that is traveling in a straight line, it can result in a serious collision.
- Product defects: Bicycle accidents sometimes happen because the bike has design or manufacturing defects. When this is the case, the product designer, manufacturer, supplier, and/or distributor may be responsible for the accident.
- Distracted driving: In today’s electronic age, a growing number of motorists are distracted while driving. Drivers have always had distractions, but texting while driving and similar activities are especially dangerous, because they distract drivers in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. Drivers who are distracted are far less likely to spot bicyclists in time to avoid a collision. This may be one of the major reasons for the recent increase in bicyclist fatalities.
California Driver Responsibilities to Avoid Bicyclists
Bicyclists have smaller profiles and less protection, and they are also less able to see motor vehicles that may be approaching them from behind. In 2014, California enacted a new law designed to help protect bicyclists known as the Three Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21670). This law mandates that motor vehicles must stay at least three feet away from cyclists when they pass them on the street. Previously, the law required motorists to maintain “a safe distance”.
Under the new law, motorists are required to:
- Provide a 3-foot buffer between the motor vehicle and the bicyclist (when passing the bicycle);
- If the motorist is unable to provide a 3-foot buffer due to traffic or road conditions, they must slow to a reasonable speed when passing and only do so if passing does not endanger the bicyclist’s safety.
Keeping a safe distance of 3 feet or more (when possible) while passing a bicycle is the law in California, but there are some other safety practices motorists should implement when sharing the road with bicyclists:
- Pass bicycles on the left side;
- Be patient and wait to pass until there is a clear traffic lane next to you;
- Always check your blind spots for bicycles;
- When you park, always check your mirrors for cyclists before opening your doors.
Injured in a Bicycle Accident in Southern California? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are someone close to you was injured in a bike accident that was caused by another party, you may have a right to compensation. To preserve your legal rights, it is best to speak with a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible. In San Diego, El Cajon, and throughout Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo today at 619-441-2500 for a free consultation. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our office in person at your convenience.