A new law in California requires that motorists keep a buffer of 3 feet (1 yard) from bicyclists when passing by or slowing down. Drivers will have to maintain the space to avoid getting fined for violation.

The Legislature has passed the Three Feet for Safety Act, which is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The mandate becomes effective from Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the State of California and has been passed in a bid to keep cyclists in the state safe. Statistics reveal that over 150 cyclists were killed in the state in 2012.

Previous laws have required that motorists allow cyclists to pass on the left, as well as maintain a safe distance from them. However, the new state law outlines the distance that needs to be maintained. The law also says that in instances when it is not possible to provide a 3-foot buffer, then motorists need to slow their vehicle and they can only pass the cyclist if the act will not "endanger the safety" of the cyclist.

In the event a driver violates the 3-foot cushion and drives past a cyclist who is maintaining lesser distance, then the motorist may be subject to a fine of $35. Moreover, the violator will have to bear additional court fee which means that they will need to shell out at least $237 in fines. If a driver collides with a bike rider and the latter gets injured, then the former's base cost itself is $220.

With hefty fines in place, the advocates of the new law hope that it will lead to motorists becoming more cautious. Moreover, its simplicity ensures that the law will not be burdensome for the motorists.

"It doesn't really change what drivers are already supposed to do," said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, which pushed for the law. "But we think that by specifying the distance of 3 feet, drivers will be a little more patient and be safer in passing."

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials are also taking into consideration instances when the bike rider may be at fault and attempts to squeeze past a driver maintaining the 3-foot cushion. In such scenarios, the CHP assures it will take into consideration the entire situation.

The new law aims to ensure biker safety and reduce instances of road accidents in California.

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