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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Monthly crime prevention tip: New Georgia traffic laws.

By Dennis Nelson

On July 1, several new state laws went into effect, including ones regarding bicycling and child and booster seats.

Bicycle safety

The "Better Bicycling Bill," House Bill 101, was signed into law in May. It requires drivers to maintain a three-foot minimum passing distance between their vehicle and a cyclist. Georgia is the 18th state to adopt the standard, according to the Georgia Bikes organization.

The need for this law is obvious. As recently as only three days after the law went into effect, a man was riding his bike Roswell Road in Sandy Springs when he was killed after being hit from behind.

With high gas prices and good weather, cars and trucks are encountering more bicyclists on the roadways. Bicycles are slower moving vehicles and, in this fast paced society, people feel the need to get by them quickly. However, always remember that in order to pass them, you must maintain the three-foot distance.

House Bill 101 also outlines bicycle lane safety standards, gives cyclists the right of way when they're traveling in those bicycle lanes, designates specific conditions for a bicycle to move into the middle of a regular travel lane and allows for an extended right arm to be accepted as a right turn signal.

Many traffic rules also apply to bicycles. Georgia statute 40-6-294 states every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the road as practicable, except: when turning left; when avoiding hazards to safe cycling; when the lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle; when traveling at the same speed as traffic; or while exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. According to the law, the bicyclist going away from the right side of the roadway shall also exercise reasonable care and shall give due consideration to the other applicable rules of the road. Another rule for bicyclists is that bikers shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

Georgia statute 40-6-296 addresses equipment required on all bicycles. It reads: Every bicycle, when in use at nighttime, shall be equipped with a light on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department of Public Safety which shall be visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlights on a motor vehicle. A light emitting a red light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector. The statute adds that every bicycle sold or operated shall be equipped with a brake enabling the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level pavement.

Georgia law also requires everyone under 16 on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path or sidewalk must wear an approved bicycle helmet. The term "bicycle helmet" means a piece of protective headgear which meets or exceeds the impact standards for helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (www.ansi.org) or the Snell Memorial Foundation (www.smf.org). Both of these Web sites contain valuable information about helmets, standards, testing certification and guidelines. For the purposes of Georgia law, a person shall be deemed to wear a helmet only if it is a good fit and is fastened securely upon the head by using the attached straps. One has to ask the question: What good is a bicycle helmet if it isn't properly fastened to your head?

Child safety and booster seats

Georgia also enacted a new law designed to protect children between the ages of 6 and 8 whose height and weight still puts them at risk for injury as a result of being secured only by an adult lap or seat belt. Senate Bill 88 requires all children under eight be secured in a child or booster seat. The child or booster seat must be located in the rear seat of the vehicle, must be appropriate for the child's height and weight and must meet all federal safety standards.

According to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than those using just a seat belt.

Once a child turns eight, he or she is no longer required to sit in a child or booster seat. Children who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall are exempt from the law, as are children whose parents have obtained a written physician's statement explaining why the child cannot be restrained in a booster seat.

Children who weigh at least 40 pounds may use a lap belt only instead of a booster seat if:
1. the child weighs 40 pounds or more and the available lap and shoulder belts are being used to restrain other children, or
2. the child weighs 40 pounds or more and the vehicle is not equipped with both lap and shoulder belts.

Fair enforcement of all laws

As always, the Milton Police Department will fairly enforce all traffic laws, whether you are driving or riding in a car or on a bicycle. Enforcement is both necessary and important to minimize traffic collisions. Remember that traffic lights and stop and regulatory signs apply to all motorists and bicyclists.

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