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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, promoted and enforced.
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 a cyclist 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 of the motorist.
4. What do other states do?
Many states have a law requiring three feet of safe passing clearance, including but not limited to: AZ, FL, MN, OK, UT, WV, and WS.
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 (2007 Session) 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 safely. This law simply:
1. Defines safe distance as three feet. AND
2. Makes non-compliance a misdemeanor.
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?
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.
8. Why do bikes require the same precautions as vehicles?
Cyclists are allowed to use the roadway by law in Texas but cyclists are more vulnerable because they do not have the same (armor) protection as motorists if they are struck from behind.