skip to Main Content

What Is Virginia’s New “Three Feet” Rule? What Are the Consequences for Violating It?

In Virginia, motorists are required to share the roadways with bicyclists. Unfortunately, driver negligence has led to many devastating bicycle accidents. The Virginia legislature passed a new state law in 2014 mandating that motorists give cyclists a certain amount of space when passing. Motorists who fail to obey this law can receive a traffic citation.

If you have been ticketed for improper passing, contact a Hampton Roads, VA, traffic ticket defense attorney at Shannon & Associates, P.C. Our Virginia-based law firm is skilled at effectively defending motorists against traffic citations.

 What Is the “Three Feet Rule?”

Virginia’s new “three feet” rule requires drivers to leave at least three feet of space between their car and any bicyclists they pass. This distance ends up being enough room so that the bicyclist can’t reach out and touch a passing vehicle. The goal of the law is to reduce the number of bicycle accident-related deaths and injuries in urban areas like Richmond.

Law enforcement officers can issue a citation to any driver who fails to abide by this law. Motorists may not attempt to pass bicyclists if they cannot do so at a safe distance. If there is insufficient space within a lane for a motorist to pass a bicyclist, the motorist should change lanes to pass.

 History of the Three Feet Rule

In the past, Virginia law required motorists to give bicyclists two feet of space when passing in the same lane. The new legislation, sponsored by Republican Senator Bryce Reeves, changed the distance from two to three feet.

The road to passing the new law was a long one. Organizations like the Virginia Bicycling Federation spent many years advocating for a change to the original two-foot law. When the revised law went into effect, Virginia officially joined 23 other states and Washington D.C. in enacting a three-foot passing law.

According to local news station WTVR, 600 cyclists were injured, and eight were killed in accidents in the year before the new rule was adopted. These staggering statistics helped prompt changes to the law. After the bill was passed, police officers received special training to help them gauge whether motorists were maintaining a safe, three-foot passing distance.

The Virginia Bicycle Federation also hopes that the legislature will reconsider other measures to protect bicyclists in the future. Some of those measures include laws against tailgating bicyclists and “dooring” regulations, which would aim to reduce bicycle accidents caused by motorists opening their car doors. These measures have not previously passed the legislature.

 Potential Punishments

Failing to maintain a safe distance from a bicyclist is considered an improper passing violation. This traffic infraction can result in several penalties, including fines, court fees, and a maximum of three points on your driving record. In addition to the financial strain of traffic fines, having points added to your license can also drive up your auto insurance premiums. You need an experienced Virginia traffic ticket attorney to help you fight the citation for these reasons.

 How We Can Help

If you received a traffic citation for violating the three-feet rule in Hampton Roads, contact a skilled Virginia traffic ticket defense lawyer at Shannon & Associates, P.C. today. We have extensive experience defending traffic tickets in court and can potentially help you avoid some of the penalties associated with an improper passing violation. We are committed to helping you keep your driving record clean while saving you money in the long run.

Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back To Top