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“Close Pass” – The ramifications of driving too close to a cyclist

November 12, 2019 by in category Careless Driving, News with 4 and 0
Home > News > Careless Driving > “Close Pass” – The ramifications of driving too close to a cyclist

The Highway Code

One of the biggest cause of conflict between cyclists and motorists is the room left for one another on the road especially when a motorist chooses to overtake a cyclist. The issue of motorists leaving sufficient room when overtaking was heavily publicised earlier this year after plain clothes police operations were implemented to catch motorists who were guilty of a “Close Pass”

Some motorists find the presence of cyclists on the road a source of great frustration and annoyance but as we outline in this article the Highway Code and Road Traffic Act 1988 make it clear that the responsibilities lay heavily on the motorist to take care for the safety of cyclists. The “Close Pass” scenario is not defined in law as an offence in itself. However, we have examined the two main sources of information concerning this to establish just what motorists and cyclists should do to avoid falling foul of legal and safety recommendations.

It may come as a surprise that the Highway Code does not specifically have a distance which would be considered a “Close Pass”.

Section 163 of the Highway Code states in relation to cyclists that you should:

“Give motorcyclists, cyclists, and horse riders at least as much room as you when overtaking a car”Section 163 of the Highway Code

The standard wording and lack of a clear distance in relation to what is safe and lawful makes it difficult to definitively advise on what would be considered a “Close Pass”.

That being said, in the last couple years, a number of police forces have undertaken operations and initiatives to educate drivers on the need for at least a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between cyclist and vehicle. Whilst the Highway Code does not specify a minimum distance, it is generally accepted that anything closer than 1.5 metres of space will constitute a “Close Pass” and therefore could see the motorist overtaking with a lesser distance between them facing prosecution.

Complaints regarding a “Close Pass”

A cyclist cannot specifically make a complaint in regards to an offence of “Close Pass” as this in itself does not exist. However, a cyclist can contact their local police force non-emergency number or visit their local police station to make a formal complaint against a driver. Many cyclists wear go pro cameras as standard these days and it would certainly help to provide any footage to the police.

The police will want to assess the evidence, including but not limited to: notes, eye witness accounts, and helmet cameras. Cyclists should note, that although they have made a complaint regarding an alleged careless driving offence, each case will be judged on its own merits. Any prosecution will have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the driver in question did drive without due care and attention. This means whilst you may have helmet footage or evidence of a “Close Pass” incident, it does not mean that the police will automatically take action, it all depends on case specific circumstances.

Penalty for a “Close Pass”

Although there is no law in the Road Traffic Act 1988 for driving too close to a cyclist, there is a law for “Careless Driving”. Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

“If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence”.Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988

This means that if you are driving too close to a cyclist, it is possible that you can receive a fixed penalty of 6 penalty points and a £100.00 fine. If the case is brought before the court, careless driving can see you receive anywhere from 3-9 penalty points, a fine of between 50%-150% of your weekly income, or even a discretionary disqualification from driving.

Alternatives to Penalty Points

In some cases the offer of a driver improvement course may be made instead of a fixed penalty or court prosecution. This solution avoids the motorist being unfairly penalised whilst also addressing the driving behaviour that led to police involvement in the first place.

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  • Adam
    on May 14, 2020 Reply

    I closely passed cyclists today less than 1meter not sure if he had a camera, but if I’ve been reported is there any chance of taking awareness course instead of a penalty points?

    • Jeanette Miller
      on May 14, 2020 Reply

      Thanks for making your enquiry. A driver improvement course is certainly available for minor offences. However, they are very much at the discretion of the police. We would recommend you await further contact and if a course is offered to you, this would be a good way to resolve the matter without any penalty points being imposed.

      If you need to discuss this matter further then please do get in touch and use our free “triage” service for enquiry calls.

      (We are fully operational 8am-10pm weekdays and 10am-10pm at weekends and bank holidays despite current lockdown measures.)

      The Geoffrey Miller Team

  • David Dugdale
    on June 27, 2020 Reply

    I received a letter from the police yesterday for driving without due care and attention,it was last Sunday ( Father’s Day ) and I had my 15 year old daughter in the car,I have a clean license and have from over 10 years,I simply over took the cyclist as I have done over the years,I need to post the letter to state I was the driver.what happens now?

    • Jeanette Miller
      on July 1, 2020 Reply

      When you respond to the notice, you may receive the offer of a fixed penalty of 6 points and a fine for the offence or it is possible that you will be offered a driver improvement course. During the Covid-19 crisis many courses are still taking place online and this would be by far the best outcome if it is offered as you would avoid receiving any points.

      If you wish to challenge the allegation, then when the police next get in touch, why don’t you give us a call to discuss this further. Be warned, however, the law heavily protects cyclists as outlined in this article.

      We hope this helps

      The Geoffrey Miller Team

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