New Laws Make the Roads Safer for All

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The rules of the road constantly evolve and change in an effort to make the roads safer for all who use them. One of the fastest changing categories is bicycle laws. Organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists and the National Complete Streets Coalition lobby for states to pass laws to make the roads safer for cyclists.

According to the RoSPA, around 19,000 cyclists are injured in accidents each year, of which around 3,000 are either killed or seriously injured. Close to 75% of these accidents happen at or near intersections.

While states are passing bicycle laws at varying rates of speed, it’s a good idea to be aware of the laws that are gaining traction across the country. Many of these laws encompass good common sense practices and law or not in your state, embody the best practices for sharing the road safely.

Here are some of the laws gaining traction in our 50 states:

Safe Passing Laws

What?

Safe passing laws require vehicles to pass each other at a safe distance. In most states, the amount of space necessary to be “safe” isn’t defined, but, in a growing number of states, there are laws that say a safe distance between a bicyclist and a motorist is not less than three feet.

Which states have them?

All states have some version of a no passing law. Specifics vary by state and not all states specifically reference bicycles.

Why should we all follow them?

Three feet is a generally accepted metric for safely passing bicyclists. Many bicyclists have died or been seriously injured from cars hitting them or from running off the road. Clearly side-swiping is an example of poor sharing practices.

Helmet Laws

What?

These laws require individual under a specified age to wear helmets. Some of these laws also limit liability when an adult chooses not to wear a helmet.

Which states have them?

21 states have some form of a helmet law.

Why should we all follow them?

Well, the jury is still out on whether we all should wear a helmet. BicycleSafe.com outlines many of the advantages and disadvantages of helmet laws. The most important net take-away is that helmets may improve safety for cyclists, but the most effective way to improve bicycle safety is to teach safe cycling practices to both motorists and cyclists.

Vulnerable Road User Laws

What?

Vulnerable Road User laws increase protection for bicyclists and other road users who are not in cars. States accomplish this increase in safety in a number of ways, but the laws generally involve 1) harsher penalties for the violation of existing laws when that violation impacts a defined set of road users or 2) the creation of new laws that prohibit certain actions directed at a defined set of road users.

Which states have them?

Nine states have VRU laws for actions directed specifically at a cyclist. 17 states have VRU laws that provide greater penalties when automobile actions cause serious injury or death.

Why should we all follow them?

We should all keep in mind that automobiles by their very nature protect the riders inside. However, individuals on a bicycle, moped or simply walking on their own have no protection. By being on the lookout for vulnerable road users, we will all be making the roads safer and will most likely be following the intent of any VRU law on the books.

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Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for DMVCheatSheets.com
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