A lot of people took up bicycling over the past couple of years or became more serious cyclists. That happened for a number of reasons – for example, to stay in shape while their gyms were closed and simply a lack of much else to do – especially by those who saw their work hours reduced.
This increased number of cyclists coupled with a rise in distracted driving, speeding and other reckless behavior behind the wheel has been a recipe for a concerning rise in cyclist injuries and fatalities.
What do safe passing laws do?
In an effort to make cycling safer, a number of cities have increased the number of bike lanes and enhanced protections on current bike lanes. Some states have also enacted or strengthened laws to help increase cycling safety – including what are known as “safe passing laws.”
Many of these laws require drivers to keep a distance of a minimum of 3 feet between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing them. Some require drivers to move over a lane if another one is available if there are cyclists on the road. Some let drivers legally go over a double yellow line to allow cyclists plenty of space. All of these can decrease the odds of a bike and vehicle colliding.
Why these laws can help with civil lawsuits
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 44 states as well as Washington, D.C. have some version of a safe passing law. Unfortunately, New Mexico is among the six states that don’t.
Bicycling safety advocates are trying to get these laws enacted in the remaining states. One official with the League of American Bicyclists notes, “Even if there’s not going to be a lot of proactive enforcement, it educates drivers and…helps in civil lawsuits.”
He explains that by having laws in place requiring motorists to maintain a specific distance from bicyclists in front of or alongside them, if a driver gets too close and strikes a cyclist, it’s easier for them or their surviving family members to get justice.
Even without a safe passing law in place, bicyclists in New Mexico who have been injured or the loved ones of those who have been killed can seek justice and compensation if a driver strikes a bicyclist. It’s wise to have experienced legal guidance to improve your chances of prevailing.