You would think given these two facts that local law enforcement agencies would prioritize sanctions for those who violate the three-foot buffer law, requiring drivers to maintain a minimum distance from cyclists. However, it appears this isn’t the case.
Our Fort Myers bicycle accident attorneys note that, since 2011, there have been 11 fatal bicycle crashes in Lee County, with another 230 cyclists sustaining serious injuries. And yet, according to a recent report by NBC-2, a total of three citations were issued in Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties for violation of the three-foot rule. That’s less than one citation per county per year.
In all of Florida, there were just 84 tickets issued for this offense in 2012. Clearly, it’s not a top priority – which is of grave concern considering the risks cyclists take every time they take to the roadway.
Unfortunately, it’s not just a Lee County or even a Florida problem.
An article published recently in The Atlantic highlighted the fact that the southern United States in particular has a major problem in maintaining safety for cyclists. Citing a 2012 study by the National Alliance for Biking and Walking, the reporter delved into the fact that per bicyclist, per miles traveled, the South is by far the deadliest region in the nation. For instance, if you get on a bicycle in North Carolina, you’re eight times more likely to be struck and killed by a car than if you were to get on a bike in Oregon. If you’re in Mississippi, your 13 more likely to suffer the same fate.
Florida has the highest number of annual bicycle fatalities in the nation, with an annual average of 117.3. These account for 4 percent of all traffic fatalities. Both figures are the highest in the country, where the national median is 7.3 fatal crashes per state, accounting for 1.5 percent of all traffic deaths.
The reasons why are somewhat complex. For one thing, the south in generally is a seemingly ideal place for such outdoor activity. The area is largely flat, it’s scenic, and the weather is fare for a large part of the year. This alone means we tend to have more people venturing out on bicycles than in, say, Ohio or Montana.
But there are a lot of colder-weather cities that have large bicycle ridership and a fairly stable safety record. Boston is a good example, with average annual bicycle fatalities in the city being just 1.
The degree to which state and local governments spend on the issue is an important safety indicator. The group Advocacy Advance reports that, while Massachusetts spent 5 percent of its transportation budget on biking and walking safety and infrastructure, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina and Louisiana all shelled out less than one half of one percent of their transportation budget for such projects.
What many cyclists are advocating for is a renovation of streets geared toward the “Complete Streets” model. Currently, a federal bill is pending in committee that would require all transportation projects funded by federal dollars to incorporate the “Complete Streets” model, which takes into greater account roadway accessibility for both bicyclists and pedestrians.
In Lee County, a Complete Streets initiative is already underway, steered by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Yet urban design only goes so far. Drivers still need to pay attention and avoid reckless or careless actions behind the wheel. And when they don’t, law enforcement needs to act.
Contact the Hollander Law Firm for injury representation. Call 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation.