Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

3-Feet law has teeth, but are they sharp enough?

with one comment

Up against deadline, an editor from Vegas Seven e-mailed me early last week in a panic. He was finalizing Room to Roll, my story in the Aug. 11 issue, and wanted to know what repercussions, if any, breakers of the new 3-feet law would face. (See the story for more about the law.)

It wasn’t that I hadn’t asked prior to submitting the story; it was that nobody seemed to know. The sources I talked to (including Ryan Pretner’s wife, who’s an attorney, and Senator David Parks, who wrote the bill) only said that it would be up to a judge to decide.

That’s true – but there’s more.

As luck would have it, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department‘s public information office, which hadn’t returned my calls while I was reporting on the story, put me through to someone right away when I called to get the Vegas Seven editor’s question answered on deadline.

PIO Jay Rivera looked it up and told me that violating the traffic law that encompasses the new 3-feet provision is a misdemeanor “with a penalty not to exceed $1,000, six months in jail or 120 hours of community service.”

Heartening as it was to get an answer (although it still didn’t make it in before deadline), it was disheartening to see a penalty that seemed light relative to the harm that can be caused when a car hits a cyclist.

To be sure, not all the collisions in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics I gave in the story are the fault of the motorists, but regardless who’s at fault, the cyclist is more likely to end up hurt – sometimes badly, as in Pretner’s case. If the driver is at fault and he, say, paralyzes someone, burdens him with millions of dollars in medical bills and a life of in-home care, takes away his ability to work… the maximum penalty the driver can receive is $1,000, six months in jail or 120 hours of community service? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Hopefully, there is the possibility of escalating the charges based on damage done, and of course there is always the civil litigation option.

In any case, the 3-feet law is a good first step to making motorists more aware of their obligation to safely avoid cyclists. The risk of having to shell out $1,000 for a ticket might curb some intentionally aggressive behavior from drivers toward cyclists. But it’s unlikely the end of the fight for bicycles’ fair share of the road.


One Response

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  1. I don’t eveen know how I ended up here,
    but I thought this post waas great. I do not know who yyou are but certainly youu aree going to a famous bloger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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