Overtaking Law Designed for Bike Safety

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Landaus on bikes
New bike safety laws in Australia specify the safe distance by which cars and trucks must pass by cyclists on the roads. Lawyer Doug Landau, shown here with wife Melissa enjoying a bike ride in Australia, wishes US legislators would take a cue from their Australian counterparts and enact stricter overtaking laws.

New bike safety laws implemented this week in the wake of two cycling fatalities in the last fortnight are causing controversy, reports Doug Landau from Australia.

The new requirement means that cars and trucks must keep a certain distance when overtaking these non-motorized vehicles. The distance is set at a minimum of one metre (a bit over a yard) in a 60km/hour or less zone (37 MPH) and 1.5 metres on roadways with higher speed limits.

According to one commentator in the Australian press, “The new overtaking law is obviously designed to ensure the safety of cyclists [who] have no protection to speak of if they collide with motor vehicles…our laws should be written to maximise the safety of cyclists.” (Advertiser.com.au, 10/19/2015 p. 18)

However, there is concern that the new overtaking law leaves too much room for error.

Human error and the failure to “drive (AND bike) defensively” often results in needless injury.

The overtaking law provides that a motor vehicle must pass bicycles at a “sufficient distance” to avoid a crash. Some people may think 18 inches is sufficiently safe. However, if the biker and the car driver or trucker simultaneously move only a foot closer, a collision will occur.

With the new law, there is no room for doubt.

American bike crash injury lawyer and frequent multisport bicycle racer Doug Landau asserts that the overtaking laws should be uniform and enforced consistently.

“Passing a bicycle rider in a car or truck with less than 3-4 feet between is a recipe for disaster. The “share the road” signs and stickers are not just good manners. They speak to the safety of everyone on the roads; not just those with engines. Bikers and motorists need to coexist, not compete for space on our surface roads.”

Lawyer Landau, of the Herndon, Virginia law firm Abrams Landau, Ltd., thinks American legislators should take a cue from their Antipodean counterparts and enact such cycling safety laws.

If you or someone you know have been injured in a biking accident and there are questions as to what laws apply, email or call Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).