Bike riders peddling along Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland, Mississippi may have noticed a new sign telling drivers to keep a 3 foot buffer between their car and a cyclist. The sign is part of a new law, the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act, that took affect July 1. It is now illegal to drive too closely to bicycle riders or to throw things at them or harass them. It’s amazing that it there needs to be a law to prevent hassling bicyclists, but hopefully the law will make the road safer for everyone. Drivers who violate the law can face a fine of $100 for a first offense to $2,500 and jail time for multiple offenses. Bike riders have to ride more safely too, and are now required to keep to the right curb and signal turns.
I personally have experienced both sides of this issue. As a cyclist, I’m often surprised that cars will not move over to provide extra space for me or other bicycle riders. I have also noted that some bicyclists seem to intentionally take up as much of the road as they possibly can. From a safety point, the law will benefit both bicycle riders and car drivers.
From a personal injury standpoint, the new law should trigger automatic liability if a motorist violates the three foot buffer and strikes a cyclist. When a law is created to protect a certain group, in this case bicycle riders, and the defendant violates that law, there is almost automatic proof of liability. As long as a personal injury lawyer could prove from accident reconstruction expert testimony that the motorist was within three feet of the cyclist when the accident occurred, the motorist will be found legally responsible for the cyclist’s injuries.