Florida Law Requires Cars Maintain Distance From Bicyclists


Authorities in West Boca have launched an investigation into the death of a 58-year-old man who was riding his bicycle in the bike lane of Lyons Road just after 9 a.m. when he was struck by a minivan. 

Witnesses say the 68-year-old driver of the minivan suddenly veered out of control and slammed into the cyclist from behind. The rider was pronounced dead at the scene.

When the driver of a car strikes a bicyclist, it’s almost never intentional. But most Palm Beach bicycle accidents could be prevented if motorists obey the law by maintaining a three-foot distance from all cyclists.

Florida Statute 316.083(1) requires that the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle – or any other non-motorized vehicle – keep a safe distance from the cyclist of at least 3 feet. That means there may be some situations in which drivers could be required to maintain an even greater distance.

But even the three-foot minimum is often flouted by drivers.

Part of the problem continues to be a lack of awareness, even 8 years after the law first passed. Back in 2011, the Sun-Sentinel followed up on the law’s enforcement. What they found was that between 2006 and 2010, there were less than 340 tickets written statewide for failure to give a 3-foot clearance to cyclists. That was according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Of those 340 tickets, 4 were issued in Palm Beach County, 55 in Broward County and 15 in Miami-Dade.

Enforcement appears to only be getting worse. In all of 2012, for example, just 84 tickets were issued statewide.

This is deeply concerning when you consider that Florida is the most dangerous place for bicyclists in the country. While the U.S. rate of bicycle fatalities per 100,000 persons was 0.23, in Florida, it was nearly triple that at 0.63, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Palm Beach County ranks fifth in the state for bicycle deaths and third for bicycle injuries. Miami-Dade and Broward rank No. 1 and No. 2 in both categories, respectively.

Between 2007 and 2011, there were more than 530 fatal bicycle crashes in Florida, and nearly 22,000 were injured.

Again, many of these instances could likely be prevented if drivers of cars simply followed the 3-foot law.

A recent investigation by a news station in Fort Myers revealed that the law is broken routinely every day across the state. Reporters established a camera along a heavily-traveled thoroughfare in the south section of the city. They filmed for 30 minutes. Just in that time, the reporters noted four drivers who violated the 3-foot rule.

In Lee County, where that investigation took place, 11 cyclists were killed and more than 230 injured in bicycle crashes. That’s less than Palm Beach, but still substantial. And the number of tickets for violations issued in that county during that year? Just one.

Law enforcement officers defend those statistics by saying that they often cite drivers under a different statute, such as careless driving or failure to maintain a single lane. But absent the acknowledgement of the danger to the cyclist, this kind of action is almost certain to be repeated.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.