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Wednesday, February 07 2007
SB248, the Safe Passing Bill, which is co-authored by Senator Rodney Ellis and Chairman John Carona, will be presented to the State Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, February 14 at 8:15 am. Your attendance is needed to show support of SB248. The Hearing will take place in room E1.016 of the Capitol. Witnesses are ready to present their testimony; therefore, with respect to the Senators' time, we need only the presence of concerned cyclists as a show of support.
With the Senate Transportation Committee Hearing approaching next week, it is urgent and important that you contact your SENATOR if he/she is on the Senate Transportation Committee. The Senate Transportation Committee members are: Senate District 2 - Senator Bob Deuell (R), Senate District 3 - Senator Robert Nichols (R), Senate District 4 - Senator Tommy Williams (R), Senate District 8 - Senator Florence Shapiro (R), Senate District 10 - Senator Kim Brimer (R), Senate District 13 - Senator Rodney Ellis (D), Senate District 14 - Senator Kirk Watson (D), Senate District 16 - Senator John Carona (R), Senate District 25 - Senator Jeff Wentworth (R), Senate District 29 - Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D).
If you are not sure who your state senator is, follow this link: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ and enter your adress to find out who represents you.
Please send a letter and contact your Senator if you live in his/her district to show your support of SB248. This is the most important legislation for cyclists in Texas' history. We will be protecting the lives of cyclists throughout the state.
The Safe Passing Bill would require a motorist to give at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist and would require a commercial vehicle to give at least six feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.
Approximately 50 cyclists per year are killed in bicycle-automobile crashes in Texas. About 40% of those are killed by motorists traveling in the same direction. Most of those 20 deaths per year could be prevented if this law were enacted and obeyed by motorists.
The Safe Passing Law, modeled on the Move Over Act (for emergency vehicles) which passed in the 2003 Texas legislative session, simplifies the punishment issues and provides a clear framework for identifying the obligations of a passing motorist to either move over or slow down when passing a cyclist. With this law, the vision of "Share the Road" can be fully realized.
FAQ for SB248
1. Why do we need this law?
Approximately fifty cyclists per year are killed in automobile crashes. About forty percent of those are killed by motorists traveling in the same direction. Most of those could be prevented if this law were enacted.
2. How are the safety distances determined? Why 3 feet for cars and 6 feet for commercial/large trucks?
The safety distances are consistent with existing safe driving practices. Currently the Commercial Driver’s handbook recommends commercial vehicles allow six feet because of the wind effect of a tractor trailer that can suck a cyclist three feet closer.
3. What if biker was not wearing required visibility equipment?
If the cyclist was not obeying the law that would be an argument the motorist would have against being liable. For instance a cyclist on an unlit street at night that did not have required safety reflectors would be breaking the law, and would be a defense against prosecution.
4. What do other states do?
Seven states have a law requiring 3ft passing clearance.
AZ, FL, MN, OK, UT, WV, WS
One state specifies two feet of passing clearance.
5. What would be the effect on police in administering this law?
The Texas Department of Public Safety has indicated that there is no operational or fiscal impact of SB 859 (2005 Session). SB 248 is consistent with SB 859.
6. Is there a presumption of liability?
NO. This law does not change the level of liability. Currently if a motorists strikes a passing cyclist and causes bodily or property damage, they will be held liable for failing to pass at a "safe distance." This law simply:
1. Defines safe distance as 3ft. AND
2. Defines what the damages will be for a cyclist that is struck.
Most motorists already are careful to pass at a safe distance. This law will codify safe practice.
7. With no witnesses how will negligence be determined? How will this be enforced? If a cyclist feels transgressed and there are no witnesses, what actions are taken?
8. Why do bikes require the same precautions as vehicles?
If a motorist hits another motorist from the rear, it is presumed that the liable motorist did not allow for enough stopping distance. Under this law likewise, if a motorist strikes a cyclist traveling in the same direction then it is reasonable to assume that the motorist did not allow for a safe passing distance. For a citation to be issued, an independent witness such as a police officer would be required just like any other moving traffic violation. A crash would also establish the basis for a citation. If a cyclist feels transgressed and there are no witnesses then the cyclist has the same recourse that a parent would have if they witnessed a speeding motorist in a school zone, ie: not much.