Georgia has updated its bicycle safety laws. Effective this month (July 2021), the updated legislation gives both drivers and cyclists new guidance as to passing a bicycle on the roadway and, for the first time, provides enforcement for violation of the law.
Georgia’s “Three Feet” Law
Under the original version of this law, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-56, when drivers were passing a bicycle, they were supposed to give the cyclists at least three feet of clearance. However, the updated law now requires drivers to give cyclists even more space when possible or to slow down when passing.
The updates to Georgia’s bike safety law were introduced to the Georgia General Assembly in February 2021. The House approved the bill in February, followed by the Senate in March. Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill in May. The law took effect on July 1, 2021.
The updated law requires a driver passing a bicycle to change lanes if the traffic conditions allow, including passing on a double yellow line (if they can safely do so). Or, if a driver cannot safely change lanes, they must slow down to 10 miles below the posted speed limits or 25 miles per hour, whichever amount is greater. Once the driver has slowed down, they can pass the bicyclist, but only if there is at least three feet of clearance between the vehicle and the bicycle. A driver cannot pass a bicycle in a blind turn, on a blind hill, or into oncoming traffic.
If a driver is caught violating this updated law, they can be charged with a misdemeanor offense and face a fine of as much as $250.00. It is important to note that many cyclists have front- and rear-facing cameras, and under Georgia law, they can submit to their local law enforcement agency a video recording of a driver making an illegal pass for enforcement.
When a bicycle is in an accident with a motor vehicle, the bicycle always loses. Bikes cannot provide enough protection to safeguard the cyclists against the impact of larger, heavier vehicles. According to the Georgia Department of Highway Safety, there were 21 bicycle-related fatalities in 2019, with Fulton, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties having the most accidents. (This does not include motorcycle fatalities). For this reason, stronger laws are necessary to protect cyclists and, as such, this Bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In Metro Atlanta, local governments have also enacted their own traffic laws that both drivers and cyclists are expected to follow. These laws are designed to keep the roadways safe for everyone. Violating a traffic law like O.C.G.A. § 40-6-56 can put the cyclist at serious risk and people injured as a result of such violations deserve compensation.
Have Questions? Contact Burrow & Associates
Drivers and cyclists should be aware of the updates to the bicycle safety law, and treat each other responsibly. However, if you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle-related accident, please reach out to our personal injury team for help. You can contact us at (678) 323-2394. We offer free consultations and have six offices conveniently located in Duluth, Athens, Gainesville, Conyers, Kennesaw, and Morrow.