It took more than 10 years to get here, but New Jersey's governor has signed a law giving greater protection to bicyclists pedaling in the street.
The bipartisan bill set rules for when it is and is not safe for a car or truck to pass a cyclist or pedestrian. Motorists who violate the law face fines of $100 or $500 (and two motor vehicle points) if they cause an injury.
New Jersey is the 43rd state to pass such a law, according to NJ.com.
The so-called "safe passing" rule applies to bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as people on scooters and motorized chairs, among other vulnerable roadway users. When a motorist wants to pass a bicyclist in New Jersey, the driver must now follow these regulations:
- Drivers must move over one lane or leave 4 feet of space between the vehicle and cyclist when passing, if it is safe to do so
- If it is not safe to do so, the driver must slow down to at least 25 mph until it is safe to pass
New Jersey car v. bicycle accidents
New Jersey was in serious need of a safe passing law. The state has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country. Even worse, the rate keeps rising.
In New Jersey, the pedestrian fatal crash rate grew by 9% from 2019 to 2020, according to an analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). This increase represents 16 more pedestrian deaths than 2019 for a total of 191 deaths in 2020.
Dangerous Monmouth County intersections
New Jersey's streets have a reputation of being dangerous for people on bicycles and those who are walking or jogging. As we noted in July, a retired Plainfield police officer says he has had more close calls riding his bicycle than he ever did in 25 years on the force.
Some streets pose more risk to people than others. According to crash reports and local comments, some of the most dangerous intersections in Monmouth County and Central NJ are:
- Asbury Circle, Asbury Park
- Routes 35 and 36, Eatontown
- Stillwells Corner Road at West Main Street, Freehold
- Sycamore at Hance avenues, Freehold
- Collingwood Circle, Farmingdale
- Jackson Mills at Bergerville roads, Howell
The NJ difference
New Jersey's new safe passing regulations took more than 10 years to develop and become law. When the legislation was first proposed in 2009, the bill would have required motorists to leave three feet between themselves and bicyclists when passing and nothing more.
Now the New Jersey bill is one of the more comprehensive safe passing bills in the U.S. The New Jersey law specifically spells out when it is unsafe to pass and what to do. Most bills do not go this far.
What a motorist should do if it is unsafe to pass is not addressed in most other state laws. For many people, the natural assumption is that if it is not safe to pass, you should slow down and wait for a good time to pass. Assuming that everyone will come to this conclusion, though, has left unnecessary room for debate. By spelling out what a motorist has to do when behind a slower-moving person, New Jersey is bringing clarity to the situation.
We hold negligent drivers accountable
New Jersey drivers have a new law they need to follow when on the road, but bicycle accidents are still going to happen. When a negligent driver hits a cyclist, pedestrian, or another person on the road, it is important that they are held fully responsible for their actions.
At Shebell & Shebell, LLC, we understand the long road to recovery victims often face. Attorney Thomas F. Shebell, III, our law firm's managing partner, is an avid cyclist who was hit by a car in 2001 and severely injured while out for a bicycle ride. That's why we take bicycle accidents so seriously. We know what you're going through, and we know how to help make you whole again.
If you or a loved one got hit by a car in New Jersey, our highly skilled bicycle accident attorneys can fight for the compensation you deserve. To learn your legal rights and options, contact us today for a free consultation.