In the past, state law required drivers of any vehicle, including bicycles, make a complete stop before entering an intersection when there was a stop sign. A failure to do so was a traffic violation. California lawmakers recently passed a law, the Safety Stop bill, that removes this infraction and allows bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs.
#1: This is not a novel concept
California is not the first to pass such a law. Idaho has long had a similar rule and several other states have passed similar laws. The goal is to encourage bicycles to slow down at intersections and then behave rationally. Instead of forcing a complete stop, cyclists can slow down and, if the way is clear, continue through the intersection.
#2: Slowing down, instead of stopping, can be safer
So what else should cyclists know about this law? In addition to making it easier to navigate intersections, evidence is available that shows giving bikers the legal support to act reasonably at an intersection is actually safer than forcing them to stop. This is supported by the fact that other states report fewer crashes after passing this law. Delaware has reported a 23% decrease in bike crashes at intersections after passing a similar law.
#3: Drivers are still liable if they hit a biker in an intersection
In the past, a driver who struck a biker in an intersection may have tried to argue that the biker was partly responsible because they violated the law if the biker did not fully stop at a stop sign. Lawmakers included a provision within this law that specifically states drivers of motor vehicles that strike a biker due to the driver’s negligent or wrongful act or omission are still liable for the accident. As a result the biker’s choice to roll through the stop sign, if reasonable and safe to do so, would not remove the driver’s liability in the event of an accident.