Drivers may know that they are supposed to leave a safe buffer zone between themselves and a bike when passing the bicyclist. If a bike is moving the same direction, in the same lane, the cyclist has a right to that lane just like another motorist would. It doesn't matter that they're moving slower than traffic.
Since a responsible driver wouldn't try to pass a car or a motorcycle in the same lane, they shouldn't do it with a bike. They need to know that they can leave the proper amount of distance -- three feet in West Virginia -- between the side of the car and the bike.
In wide traffic lanes, this may be possible, but in narrower lanes, it's often too tight. If there is no oncoming traffic, cars need to merge and pass just as they would with another car.
However, what about when there is oncoming traffic and there's still not enough space? That's when most drivers assume they just have to pass too closely. That's not the right solution, though. Instead, they need to slow down and wait until they can pass safely.
Why don't they do it? They often feel like cars have a right to the road and that cyclists are nothing but a nuisance. They make excuses about close passes, saying they had no other options.
That's not true. Slowing down is always an option. Drivers should not put such an emphasis on speed or rushing to an appointment that they put a rider in danger.
Unfortunately, many of them do just that. If you suffer injuries in an accident, make sure you know what legal options you have to seek compensation.