Maine Bicycle Accidents: Failure to Leave Adequate Room When Passing

Bicycling on scenic Maine roadways can be a great means of physical exercise, a fun family activity, or an efficient mode of transportation. Bicyclists, however, face many dangers on the roadways. After 20 years of declining bicycle accident rates, the National Highway Transportation Association (NHTSA) has released statistics showing the number of bicycling injuries and deaths have rapidly increased in the past few years. Bicycling deaths are up over 9% from just 2010, and nearly 50,000 American cyclists are injured annually.

One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents is the failure of automobile drivers to leave adequate room when passing the bicyclist. It is estimated that 40% of all fatal crashes between a motorist and bicyclist involve collisions from behind. Motorists who encroach on the space of the bicyclist can cause the following to occur:

  • The motor vehicle may sideswipe the bicyclist
  • The bicyclist might overreact to avoid the car, and crash into guardrails, fall off the roadway, hit parked vehicles or other obstacles, or inadvertently drive into the car
  • The motor vehicle may harass or frighten the bicyclist by traveling too close
  • The motor vehicle may crash into the back of the bicyclist

To combat the alarming number of bicycle collisions caused by a failure to leave adequate passing room, a number of states have enacted safe passing laws. Safe passing laws set a minimum distance that motor vehicles must maintain away from bicyclists when passing. Wisconsin became the first state to pass a safe passing law back in 1973. Since that time, 22 states have enacted similar measures. Currently, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia had enacted 3-feet passing laws. Virginia has a 2-feet passing law, and Pennsylvania a 4-foot one. Nineteen other states have general laws that require motorists pass at a safe distance and speed.

Maine’s Safe Passing Laws

Maine’s safe passing laws, set out in 29-A MRSA § 2070, was first enacted in 1993. It requires that all operators of motor vehicles leave a distance of not less than 3 feet while the motor vehicle is passing the bicycle. Further, a motor vehicle may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone only when it is safe to do so.

In 2013, 29-A MRSA § 2070 was amended to add a provision which states that the collision of an automobile with a bicyclist is prima facie evidence of a violation of the safe passing laws.

When a Driver’s Violation of the Safe Passing Laws Leads to the Bicyclist’s Injury

If the driver of a motor vehicle fails to abide by the three feet passing law, and in turn causes an accident or injury to the bicyclist, he or she may be liable under personal injury law. Bicycle riders injured due to the negligence of automobile drivers can pursue an action against the driver of the motor vehicle under Maine personal injury law. Negligence can be established in any number of ways, but the driver’s failure to observe the safe passing laws will often serve as evidence of negligence.

Negligent motor vehicle drivers can be liable for all damages sustained as a result of the bike accident, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future disability.

Peter Thompson & Associates: Zealous Advocacy for Injured Bikers

At Peter Thompson & Associates, we have represented injured bicycle riders across the state of Maine for decades. Our seasoned attorney team will help you to obtain a full and complete recovery from the negligent driver that caused your injuries. Call us today at 1 800.804.2004 to schedule an initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Falmouth, Bangor, and Portland.

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