New Law Requires Four Feet Distance Between a Passing Vehicle and a “Vulnerable User”

Posted on June 23, 2014 at 9:32am by

New Jersey recently passed a new law requiring passing motorists to give four feet of clearance to any “vulnerable user,” which includes pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, and people riding electric scooters. Twenty-three other states have already passed similar legislation in what seems to be a growing national trend towards recognizing the traffic rights of non-motorists.

Assemblywoman Stender of Middlesex, New Jersey sponsored the bill. Hopefully, the bill will raise New Jersey’s ranking from the 12th most bike friendly state back to its previous position as seventh or higher. The drop in ranking was a result of taking so long to pass such a bill.

How Can Motorists Appropriately Gauge a Safe Passing Distance?

The bill uses four feet as the minimum passing distance because standard traffic lanes in New Jersey are 12 feet wide. Most other states have a minimum passing distance of three feet. New Jersey’s variation on the bill will be easy to adapt to because one-third of a lane is easier to estimate than one-fourth.

“It’s to give the motorist a frame of reference for a minimum distance,” said a New Jersey transportation advocate. “Think about if you were passing a parked car and someone opens the door, that’s the minimum space.”

Furthermore, there is nothing new about minimum distance laws. Other minimum distance laws include using a turn signal 100 feet before a turn, stopping five feet before a cross walk, or stopping 15 feet before a railroad crossing. As such, implementation should be a simple process familiar to motorists.

“It’s natural for drivers to give room to cars parked on the side of the road or give room to drivers while getting out of their cars that are parked on the side of the roads. The reaction to give room is natural,” said the advocate. “The reaction to give room to pedestrians and cyclist should be just as natural and hopefully this bill will get us there.”

What Can I Do After a Bike Accident?

Even with the new law, New Jersey roads are still not entirely safe for cyclists. It will take quite some time for motorists to adapt to the increased presence of cyclists on the roads now that winter is over. Similarly, this past winter has left much New Jersey’s roads littered with potholes. As such, cyclists may have to swerve out of bike lanes in order to avoid dangerous potholes. This puts them at great risk of moving into lanes of traffic or risk hitting the pothole and being thrown from the bike.

After a bike accident you will want an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side. You may receive compensation for your suffering if the accident was caused by another’s negligence. After receiving the appropriate medical care for your injuries, consult with an experienced attorney to learn more about your legal options.