Officer Must Witness Incident
Joe asked: I ride my bicycle to work and back each day. Most of the commute is on rural roads with a wide shoulder but not technically a marked bike lane. This morning, while I was riding on the shoulder a vehicle pulled along beside me, slowed, and made a right turn which forced me into the ditch to avoid being run over. She stopped and said she thought I was further back and I should have seen her turning. The ride immediately preceding the incident was pretty rough so I can’t say whether or not she actually hit me. When the deputy sheriff arrived he said that since it wasn’t a crash he couldn’t do anything since he didn’t witness the incident. Does this sound right to you?
This is the applicable statute.
s. 316.083 – Overtaking 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 another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall give an appropriate signal as provided for in s. 156, shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. 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.
Since violation of the statute above is a non-criminal violation, what the officer stated is essentially correct. Normally an officer must witness the incident to properly evaluate the facts. If a crash occurs, an investigation can be initiated and witness statements are taken and other evidence is collected.
If you were not satisfied with the outcome, you could have asked for a superior officer to follow up on scene, or you could file a report after the fact with the sheriff’s office asking that they investigate.