SYDNEY, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Australia's New South Wales state Wednesday rolled out a rule to prevent motorists from driving too close to cyclists, following a two-year trial of the move that recorded a 15 percent drop in collisions between the two groups, according to transport authorities.
The new rule requires motorists who pass cyclists to be at least 1 meter away from them when the speed limit is 60 km/h and below, and at least 1.5 meters away when it is above 60 km/h, state transport authorities said in a statement.
Motorists who do not comply can be fined 330 Australian dollars (223.10 U.S. dollars) as well as receive driving demerit points, it said.
An independent evaluation of the trial had estimated the 15 percent reduction in bicycle-to-vehicle casualty crashes, with 81 percent of cyclists and 69 percent of drivers polled expressing support for the rule, said the state's Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey.
"Cycling is an increasingly popular mode of transport and recreational activity, and this rule will help ensure the safety of all road users," she said.
The rule allows drivers to cross center white lines when passing a cyclist, if the road is clear and it is safe to do so.
Local media quoted Australian cycling administrative organization Cycling Australia's Chief Executive Steve Drake as saying that "anything that helps keep vulnerable road users safe is a good thing and the minimum passing laws is definitely one of those."
Drake said it is "not uncommon" for cyclists to be hit by side mirrors when drivers are too close.
On average, nine bicycle riders are killed and more than 1,900 seriously injured in the state each year, accounting for about 16 percent of serious road injuries, according to transport authorities.
Similar laws to ensure safer distances between cyclists and motorists are in place in Western Australia and Queensland states.