Salt Lake City, UT — Utah joins the short list of places in the United States that allow lane splitting. Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed H.B. 149 making it official on March 21, 2019. California is the only other state to currently allow lane splitting.
What Exactly is Lane Filtering in Utah?
Utah’s version of lane splitting, called lane filtering, is slightly different and more restrictive. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS), lane filtering becomes legal in the state on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Lane filtering will allow Utahn motorcyclists to ride between two lanes of stopped traffic.
But the DPS warns there are restrictions. First, you need to be on a road with a speed limit of 45 mph or slower. Next, there must be two or more lanes with traffic traveling in the same direction. Also, the vehicles in both of those lanes must be at a complete stop. Finally, the motorcyclist must travel no faster than 15 mph while lane splitting.
How Does it Compare to Lane Splitting in California?
A shop foreman in Utah, Riz Lopez, gave his opinion to 2KUTV in Salt Lake City. He has experience living in California and with their lane splitting rules. He explained, “Lane splitting, you’re supposed to be able to high-speed traffic — you can drive right down the line. With lane filtering, you’re not actually driving on the line but you can shift between the vehicles.”
The California law changed in 2017. Lane splitting was not previously illegal, but it was also undefined. On January 1st of 2017, California defined lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle… between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.”
The difference is the moving vehicles part of the California law. Utah’s H.B. 149 clearly says the bill “allows lane filtering if a motorcycle is overtaking a vehicle that is stopped.” So, the Utah law is far more restrictive than California’s lane splitting.
The law also contains a sunset provision where it repeals itself on July 1, 2022. That is unless the legislature takes further action before then.
What Does this Mean for Motorcyclists?
If you’re a proponent for lane splitting, this is great news. Lane splitting gets attention from time to time. But unlike helmet laws, it rarely gets much traction. A similar measure failed in 2017 (HB 1157) in the State of Washington.
Mike Sayre from the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) described it as a “major victory.” The AMA endorses lane splitting based on the success in California and other research. Sayre went on to say, “As more states acknowledge the benefits of lane splitting, motorcyclists can become safer on the roads, and motorists can find some relief from traffic congestion.”
Until we have more flying motorcycles, lane splitting might be the easiest way to reduce congestion on the roads. Detractors have their doubts though. They believe lane splitting is more dangerous for everyone on the road. Some also worry about the road rage from drivers left behind in traffic.
What’s your opinion on lane splitting? Does it make the roads more dangerous for drivers and riders? Or does it reduce congestion and make it easier for bikers to avoid rear-end collisions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.