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Drivers Unaware California Bike Law Exists, Few Citations Given In Its First Year

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It's a law that's been on the books for more than a year, but some California drivers are unaware the law exists.

The law is designed to keep cyclists safe by giving them a buffer. California became the 24th state last year to establish a three-foot bike law.

The law took effect on Sept. 16, 2014, but only six citations have been handed out, according to the California Highway Patrol. Two of those were in the Sacramento Valley Division. The agency doesn't track how many warnings are issued.

Sacramento County traffic court officials say one person has been cited in the last year.

Other law enforcement agencies can't remember writing a citation for any drier.

"I'm not totally surprised; we are disappointed," said Jeanie Ward-Waller with the California Bicycle Coalition. "It's surprising that there's been so little enforcement when we know there are huge safety issues in every city and town across California."

Bike advocates would like to see more CHP officers and other law enforcement on bike patrol to see just what a three-foot buffer feels like.

Critics of the law have argued the law is unenforceable and difficult to measure just by eyeballing the distance.

Police agencies in a handful of cities are using an ultrasound devices attached to their bikes to measure the exact distance given when a driver goes by.

Bike advocates say even though most drivers are unaware the law exists, it doesn't mean the law can't be effective.

A Rutgers University study found even in states where the law has been on the books for years, there is little to no enforcement unless a collision occurs.

CHP numbers show there has been a slight decrease in the past two years in bicycle-vehicle collisions throughout the state.

It's important to point out that CHP bike accident numbers from 2011 and 2012 show 61 percent of the more than 1,500 collisions in the state were the fault of the bicyclist, while 20 percent it was the driver's fault, while the rest were either hit-and-run, or undetermined.

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