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Research shows drivers making more room for cyclists on the road, following the 3-foot law

The research comes from a campaign pushing for cars and trucks to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing them on the road.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cyclists who take to the roads for a fun ride are placing a lot of trust in the drivers near them. One quick turn and one slip of the wheel, and bikers can be in serious trouble.

That's why Tennessee implemented the 3-foot law, requiring drivers to keep at least 36 inches away from cyclists on the road. Ever since the law was created and an advocate group partnered with Knoxville Police Department to enforce it, advocates said more drivers have been giving cyclists space.

"We need to have safe ways for people to get around that are outside of a car," said one advocate.

In 2018, Knoxville police started riding bikes with devices attached to the handlebars that measure how much distance there was to passing cars. If it was less than 3 feet, the device would buzz and the police officer would give the driver a citation, fining them $50.

"Motorists didn't know that they were out there on a regular basis, in plain clothes and riding with these devices that can pick up a distance," said advocates.

Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association used those devices to study how much space cyclists had on average. The results were released in March and showed that the average passing distance of drivers increased.

It also said that the shore of drivers who passed within 3 feet decreased.

State leaders said that in Knox County, around 30% of bike crashes happen because drivers would too close to cyclists. But in 2019, most bike accidents were reported in Sevierville.

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