Violation of the Three Foot Law

Question

Brian asked: Can you clarify what the fines are for state and county roads for violators who do not give cyclists 3 feet of space? Are there any demerit points? Is there a record of actually how many such tickets/dollars have been issued by law enforcement officers in the last year or so. My feeling is that this is a written law without any enforcement.

Answer

The applicable statute is this. Note that a violation is punishable as a moving violation.

s. 316.083Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(1) …. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

(3) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

I believe this violation is punishable by a $60 fine plus court costs and possible driver license points. You can see the penalties for all driving infractions here:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2017/318.18

My opinion is that your assessment is correct. I have not heard of a single citation written for violating the three foot provision in this statute. For a law enforcement officer to cite someone for this would require some way to prove that the distance is less than three feet. Radars used for speeding enforcement must be regularly calibrated for accuracy. I know of no practical way to determine the passing distance accurately.

FBA recognizes this flaw and has proposed legislation that would require all drivers passing bicycles to entirely change lanes, as is now the case for motorcycles passing any vehicle.  As far as I know, it has not been met with any success to date.

s. 316.209Operating Motorcycles on Roadways Laned for Traffic

(2) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.

Posted in Ask Geo, Overtaking & Passing
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