Washington Motorcycle Law: Bill Would Allow Washington Motorcyclists to Pass on Left When Traffic Stalls

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.

Years of commuter complaints about traffic on I-405 and decades of debate on motorcycle lane splitting and Washington motorcycle law have come to a head in a current senate bill. SB 5623 is an active bill that would allow motorcyclists to ride the left shoulder of a highway when traffic is at a standstill or slow moving. 

The bill was introduced on January 26, 2015 during the House regular session where it eventually passed with some minor changes. On April 29, 2015, the bill made it to the Senate where it passed the third reading on February 5, 2016. As of February 10, 2016, the bill has been returned to the House where final discussions will see if it makes it into Washington state law. 

New Motorcycle Rules Could Relieve Traffic Congestion 

The proposed rules would allow motorcycles to ride on the left shoulder of highways in order to pass areas of traffic congestion. When doing so, motorcyclists can only travel 10 miles per hour faster than the surrounding traffic, up to 25 miles per hour. 

The goal of this rule change is not to allow lane splitting, where a motorcycle rides between marked vehicle lanes. Rather, it is to reduce the risk of breakdowns or accidents. 

Motorcycles often overheat in traffic jams due to their air-cooled systems. Broken down bikes can create even more traffic congestion and hazards if riders do not move them from the travel lanes quickly. Additionally, motorcycles have a higher risk of rear-end accidents in slow-moving traffic when drivers are not paying attention. 

Legislators are looking at the rule change as a way to remove some vehicles from the travel lanes, allowing more space for cars and trucks to move along. 

Improving Road Safety for Motorcyclists 

While we await the decision on SB 5623, both drivers and motorcyclists can take steps to improve traffic flow and safety. Motorcyclists should continue to obey the current rules, which do not allow lane splitting or riding on shoulders at any time and check out these essential motorcycle safety tips. Drivers wishing to avoid traffic should check average times for congestion and opt for a different route or travel time. 

Washington traffic is not kind to motorcyclists, and many accidents occur in highway traffic every year. If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a motorcycle crash, contact Max Meyers Law, PLLC to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our motorcycle accident attorneys regarding your potential injury claim: 425-242-5595.

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