A new state law requiring motorists to keep a 3-foot buffer zone when overtaking or passing bicyclists took effect Tuesday, Sept. 16.
If 3 feet is not available, a driver must slow down to a safe speed and pass when no danger is present, according to a California Highway Patrol press release.
"Motorists are reminded to pay close attention as the school year approaches and exercise caution when they see bicyclists on the road," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow in the press release. "Be sure to move over or slow down to pass when you see a bicyclist on the road and help keep our roadways a safer place."
In 2012, 153 bicyclists were killed in California, a 7 percent increase from 2011, according to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. Those deaths accounted for 5 percent of the total collision fatalities in the state.
"As important as it is for vehicles to be mindful of our bicyclists, those who ride must exercise safe practices and ride smart," Farrow said in the press release. "With both drivers and bicyclists doing their part, we can help reduce the number of tragedies involving bicyclists."
The fine for violating the 3-foot rule is $35, plus fees. The basic fine rises to $220 plus fees if a collision occurs, plus court costs, according to a California Bicycle Coalition press release.
The new law applies specifically to motorists passing bicyclists from behind, according to California Bicycle Coalition's website.
"A bicyclist who passes a motor vehicle by less than three feet - for example, when pulling alongside a car stopped at a red light -- would not violate this law," the website states.
The rule would be enforced the same way the state's existing law is enforced: A motorist who is seen violating the law can be cited.