Arizona’s new motorcycle law could turn more Arizonans into California drivers. SB 1273, signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey, allows motorcycles to drive between vehicles. It’s informally called lane splitting and famously is allowed in California. Recently, Utah and Montana joined the club.
The issue is whether enough safety studies have been completed to examine how this will combine with Arizona’s other motorcycle laws — or lack thereof.
The Arizona bill was a provision mainly aimed at big cities. With the Lake Havasu City area being a nice haven for touring motorcyclists, however, it could have an impact here.
The law was not written to allow lane splitting on freeways and interstates. It is meant for city streets or regional roads with at least two lanes going in the same direction and a speed limit of 45 mph. The biker would only be allowed to lane split if traffic is traveling at 15 mph, such as approaching and exiting a stoplight. That is why it is also called lane filtering.
Proponents say it loosens up gridlock on heavily-traveled routes. A high percentage of bikers, predictably, favors the idea, saying they are less likely to be rear-ended and can move through traffic more quickly. Arizona is one of several states debating lane splitting.
A poll of drivers of non-motorcycle vehicles, however, found a majority against the idea. A man in a sedan may be startled by a motorcycle suddenly at the window. As every Arizonan should know, jumpy drivers make poor decisions.
It can also lead to confrontations between motorists who do not know the law and think a biker is jumping the line.
The practice had been going on in California for decades before it was officially sanctioned. Then only after the fact did they start researching safety numbers. Across the country that research is still lacking.
An important fact to note is that California requires the wearing of motorcycle helmets. Arizona does not. Allowing lane splitting in the close confines of city streets, where bikers can get rattled around a bit, but not require a helmet is asking for traffic injury rates to rise.
Approving a California-style law in an Arizona-driving-style state might have unintended consequences.
— Today’s News-Herald