Drivers have a lot to watch out from behind the wheel of the car. From crazy other drivers, pedestrians to cyclists, there is a lot to take in as well as road conditions, meaning that drivers have to be alert all the time to avoid collisions.

However, most don’t know that it isn’t just the collision or using a phone that could get you a fine – driving too close to a cyclist when overtaking could now cost you £100 and three penalty points under new laws introduced this year.

Minimum distance

According to the new law to protect cyclists, the driver needs to leave a minimum distance from a cyclist when overtaking or travelling alongside the bike or they could receive a fine. This would be £100 and three points on the licence for being too close to a bike on the road.

So, how close is too close? According to experts, the recommended distance between car and cyclist is 1.5 metres. If you are caught within this distance, then you face the potential of a fine and points on your licence, to the same value as speeding. This has replaced the previous recommendation in the Highway Code which merely said that drivers should leave ‘plenty of room’ when overtaking someone on a bike.

Rule 163 also adds that drivers should leave ‘as much room as when overtaking a car’ when they overtake a motorcyclist, cyclist or even a horse rider. Other reasons that drivers could receive the new penalty will be straying into cycle stop boxes at traffic lights and failing to give cyclists going straight ahead priority at left turns.

However, could this new regulation of defining a distance be hard to enforce and therefore catch? Whereas before ‘plenty of room’ was down to the individual driver and police officer, now having a set minimum distance means that the judgment of distance will require greater awareness from drivers of what exactly 1.5m is.

Encouraging cyclists

Cycling Minister Jesse Norman is pushing to show that there are enormous benefits for walking and cycling. He also wants more of a climate of ensuring drivers have the skills and knowledge to safely manage to be on the road with more cyclists, as opposed to just catching and punishing them.

The government wants to encourage more people to grab a bicycle and ride around town with some £500K in funding behind introduced for new safety schemes. This will encourage people to use bikes for short journeys and cut down on accidents and also car use. Learner drivers will also be given more training on being able to safely pass cyclists, as part of the current learning process.

Worrying figures

The law was introduced when the Department for Transport showed that 102 cyclists were killed on the UK roads in 2016. This was alongside 448 pedestrians, and another 8,500 cyclists received serious injuries. This video shows the danger of not overtaking cyclists safely, and while the vehicle in question was removed from the road for having no MOT, the damage is still shocking.

As they encourage the use of bikes, the government are also looking into bike safety. Compulsory bike helmets are something that is likely to be discussed going forward, even though campaigners have already dismissed the idea as counterproductive. They are conducting a review with cyclists’ groups that is due to end later this month.

Death by dangerous cycling

Another new cycling related law to be introduced is the new ‘death by dangerous cycling’ or ‘death by careless cycling’ which is undergoing a consultation period to see if it should be introduced. One campaigner, Matt Briggs, lost his wife to a cyclist and said the current ‘arcane laws’ need to be changed.

Causing death by driving under certain conditions has a maximum sentence of 14 years. Death by careless driving has a maximum sentence of five years. However, there is currently not a set law for if you are on a bike rather than in a car. The cyclist who killed Mr Brigg’s wife Kim received just 18 months. The cyclist was riding a fixed gear bike with no front brakes when he hit Mrs Briggs as she crossed the road.

The law used was causing bodily harm by ‘wanton or furious driving’ which was originally designed to handle Victorian-era horse-drawn carriages and had a maximum sentence of two years. This is the closest thing that a dangerous cyclist can currently be charged with. It is clear that as more people take to the road on a bike, there need to be clearer laws around their behaviour and how they cycle.

Costly mistakes

While drivers can face a £100 fine and three points, lorry drivers can face a lot more if they are caught driving too close to a cyclist. One lorry driver in the West Midlands was recently fined £1038 and had five points added to his license after being caught by police. He was caught under the GiveSpaceBeSafe campaign by West Midlands police to improve driver behaviour.

Road safety experts recommend drivers brush up on their Highway Code and also the latest advice on things like passing cyclists to reduce the risk of getting a fine. Police forces around the UK are already taking steps to start issuing the penalty when drivers are caught breaking the new law.

Do you think these new laws will help? Will these enocurage people to cycle rather than drive? Should cyclists have the same laws for injuring pedestrians as drivers? Let us know below