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New rules for motorists aim to protect vulnerable roadway users


January 16, 2020

SEATTLE, Wash.—A new Washington state law (SB 5723) took effect on January 1, 2020 that provides motorists with clear rules about how to safely pass bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable roadway users.

"Washington legislators have passed a law they hope will reduce collisions between motor vehicles and people who are walking or riding bikes, and it is important for drivers to become familiar with the new laws —to avoid collisions as well as traffic infractions that may end up on your driving record and reported to your insurance company," said Kenton Brine, NW Insurance Council president.

Here are some of the new rules of the road under the law:

On roadways with more than one lane going in the same direction of travel, a motorist must change lanes to the left to legally pass a pedestrian, bicyclist or other vulnerable roadway user (such as a person riding a horse or using a farm tractor without a shell, for example).

For roadways with only one lane, motorists must slow down to a safe speed and only pass when there is a minimum of three feet of space between the vehicle and the person biking, walking, etc. If three feet of distance is not possible, then drivers can move into the opposing lane to pass, but only when it is safe to do so.

A bicyclist may ride in a dedicated right turn lane even if they don’t intend to turn and plan to continue straight instead.

Even when safety rules are in place collisions still happen, which is why it’s important to know how insurance works if you are in an accident.

Bicyclists and Insurance

If you are injured as a bicyclist in an accident that’s not your fault, then the at-fault party’s insurance should cover your bicycle and your injuries. If you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, then the optional (UM/UIM) coverage on your own auto insurance policy will apply.

Your own auto insurance may cover your medical bills and lost wages as well. And Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, may cover your medical expenses if you opted to purchase that coverage.

If you are determined to be at fault for a collision while on your bicycle, your Homeowners or Renters liability insurance will typically cover the other party’s damages.


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