What makes a law successful? It has been more than a year since Pennsylvania enacted a traffic safety law intended to prevent bicycle accidents. Motorists are required to leave at least four feet of space between their vehicles and a bike. Not dong so would result in a fine.

Few tickets for the violation have been issued.

Does the lack of tickets mean that the traffic safety law hasn’t been successful? Is law enforcement in the state choosing not to enforce the law? That could be the problem, but there are other possibilities as well. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette collected various opinions about the driving law:

  • Some bicyclists report that they’ve noticed a change in drivers’ behavior. They are being provided more space on the roads and, therefore, feel safer. If this is the case, then it would make sense that few traffic tickets are issued. Drivers are adhering to the new law.
  • Other bicyclists disagree that drivers are being more careful. Not only that, but they claim that Pennsylvania police are not enforcing the four-feet law. They do not feel safer as a result of the legislation.
  • A law enforcement official suspects that few citations have been issued because more serious, dangerous legal matters keep police busy on a day-to-day basis. Also, officers know that they need to have clear evidence that the four-feet rule was violated. That can be hard if an officer is not in a specific line of view from the supposed violation.

A bicycle accident is very likely the result of what happens when a driver fails to respect the rights of bicyclists and/or pedestrians. Even though cyclists can be made to feel like second-class citizens compared to motorists, they have legal rights when they’ve been victimized by a careless driver.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Review finds Pennsylvania’s new bike safety law not closely enforced,” John Schmitz, May 24, 2013