Cars passing bicycles must give 3-foot buffer zone on California roads

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A regulation requiring California drivers to give bicyclists a buffer zone of at least 3 feet while passing in traffic went into effect Tuesday.

Drivers who violate the zone face a fine of $35. If a collision occurs, the fine can escalate to $220.

Tuesday's regulation specifies the 3-foot buffer zone; the safe space required was not explicitly demarcated before Tuesday.

Cyclists are legally allowed to use a full traffic lane on California roads, but must follow the same laws as cars, including stopping at red lights and stop signs.

There were more than 150 bicycle fatalities in 2012, an increase of 7 percent from 2011, according to the California Highway Patrol.

There are 24 U.S. states that legally require a 3-foot buffer zone for bicyclists.

Bicycling has increased in the state by 50 percent since 2000, according to the California Bicycle Coalition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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