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
3 comments on “Violation of the Three Foot Law
  1. nope says:

    you forgot a paragraph… (2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, on audible signal or upon the visible blinking of the headlamps of the overtaking vehicle if such overtaking is being attempted at nighttime, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

  2. Geo says:

    Nope,

    That may be applicable when the bicyclist is in a wide lane but a bicyclist (or a motorist) is never required to move into an unsafe condition, including moving right in a substandard-width lane.

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
    (5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
    1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Leave a Reply