Georgia Law Clarifies How Drivers and Bicyclists Must Share the Road

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 600 bicyclists were killed and another 51,000 were injured in 2009. From 2000 to 2006, bicycle crashes accounted for only one-quarter of one percent of all traffic crashes. Yet in those years, Georgia ranked eighth among the states with the most bicycle fatalities. In 2008, the Georgia Highway Patrol reported the deaths of 20 bicyclists among the state's nearly 1,500 traffic-accident fatalities.

To combat the problem of bicycle accidents, the Georgia Legislature enacted a new law designed to help bicyclists and motorists share the state's roadways. Following the Georgia State House of Representatives' and Senate's approval, Governor Nathan Deal signed the new Georgia bike law, which added definitions and clarified the statutory meaning of "safe distance." Under the new law, motor vehicles are required to stay at least three feet away from a bicycle and bicyclists while passing. Violations can result in misdemeanor convictions, fines and possible incarceration.

Many applaud the new law, which became effective on July 1, 2011, and they believe it is one of the greatest improvements in bike-safety law in decades; despite the law, however, bicycle accidents still occur regularly on the state's roads.

A large number of car-bicycle accidents happen because drivers overlook bicyclists or find them difficult to see. Other times, drivers cause accidents with their disregard for traffic laws or because they are impaired or distracted. As a result, bicyclists may suffer life-altering, debilitating injuries or even death.

Bicyclists have the same rights as drivers when it comes to sharing the road. If a bicyclist is injured due to the fault of a careless driver, there are legal remedies available. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney can help an accident victim get back on the right path.