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21Sep, 14

In an effort to reduce accidents that killed 150 bicyclists throughout California in 2012 and injured nearly 5,000 more in Los Angeles County alone, California lawmakers have enacted a law requiring motorists to stay at least three feet away while passing bicyclists.

The law, which took effect on Tuesday, puts California among two dozen states that have enacted such buffer zones. It imposes a $35 fine on violators, which can be increased to $220 if an accident occurs while a vehicle is within the three-foot prohibited area, reports the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.). Police will rely on visual observation to determine whether a driver is in violation of the law.

Previously, drivers were required to maintain a safe distance from bicycles, but what constituted a safe distance wasn’t defined, NBC Bay Area reported last year.

Bicylists in California are required to follow the same traffic laws as cars, the Times says, including stopping at red lights and stop signs. They are allowed to use a full traffic lane.

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