New NC Cyclist-Traffic Laws
As of October 1, 2016, new laws regarding the rights of cyclists as well as motorists will have gone into effect on a statewide level in North Carolina. The possibility of these regulations being approved in other states as well makes it important for drivers in South Carolina and other surrounding areas to become familiar with the changes.
Why the Need for New Laws?
Bicycles and cars are both allowed on most roads, yet there is often danger for the unprotected cyclist. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there were 743 pedal cyclist fatalities in the United States in the year 2013. Since 2004, the number of pedal cyclist fatalities has always landed between 623 and 786 each year. While this is a small percentage of total traffic fatalities, (from 1.7-2.3 percent) it still represents a need for improvement. Existing laws don’t seem to be doing enough to protect all users of the roadways, so groups in North Carolina have been working with lawmakers to enact laws that provide a safer environment for both parties.
What Changes Were Made?
There were several changes made in order to ensure greater safety for all travelers. Some are small changes, but all will hopefully make a big change in the number of accidents involving cyclists each year.
The Department of Transportation has marked sections of the highway as no-passing zones with exceptions in these situations:
- No left turn is being attempted or signaled
- Vehicles are passing slower-moving mopeds or bicycles
- A minimum of a four-foot distance is maintained while passing
- Both vehicles are moving in the same direction
- All other rules are being followed
Additional changes will be made on December 1 regarding the visibility of cyclists. When riding at night in public areas, cyclists must have a reflex mirror on the front of their bicycle that is visible from at least 300 feet. They also must either have a rear reflex mirror as well or wear bright clothing that is visible 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
What Are the Consequences for Breaking the New Laws?
Lawmakers have stated that violating the new laws will mean a fine of at least $200. In cases where property damage or injury is incurred (whether that be to a motorcyclist or bicyclist), the fines will be increased to at least $500.
The higher fines, stricter laws and greater consideration for cyclists is a change in regulations that will hopefully result in fewer pedal cyclist deaths each year. As success in this initiative is realized, these changes will possibly be introduced in other areas.