Legislators Introduce Bills to Allow Motorcycle Lane Splitting

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Motorcycle lane splitting refers to the practice of a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of traffic and is particularly common to see during rush hour traffic or at stoplights, when a motorist drives in between two slow-moving or stopped lanes of vehicles. For years, lane splitting has been against the law and continues to remain illegal in most U.S. states (California is the only state to allow lane splitting). Washington state motorcycle laws, though, may change to make lane splitting legal.

Senate Bill 5623 and House Bill 1515

The two bills that have been introduced in Washington pertaining to the legalization of lane splitting are SB 5623 and its partner bill, HB 1515. The language of the two bills is essentially the same, with both bills stating that the legislation would allow for a motorcycle operator to “overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken” and to “operate the motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles…” according to each bill's digest. SB 5623 also stipulates that lane splitting would be allowed only for motorcyclists who keep their speed less than 35 miles per hour and travel at a speed no more than 10 mph more than the speed of traffic, regardless of the posted speed limit.

SB 5623 Heard by Washington State Transportation Committee

On February 3, 2015, SB 5623 was introduced to and heard by the Washington State Transportation Committee. Three people spoke in opposition to the bill, including Shelly Baldwin of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. The Washington State Patrol has also spoken out in opposition to the bill, and Kirotv.com quoted Bob Calkins, spokesman for the patrol, who wrote, “We think it’s a terrible idea.”

If the bill passes out of committee, it will have to make its way through all other relevant committees, be passed by the Senate, then passed by the House, and finally signed by the governor before it can go into effect.

Is motorcycle lane splitting more dangerous for motorcyclists?

There are those on both sides of the aisle who argue for and against the legalization of lane splitting in Washington state. California has stated that lane splitting is not more dangerous when motorcyclists maintain a safe speed, but those in opposition of the bill say that Washington drivers aren’t used to seeing motorcyclists in between lanes, which could lead to problems.

At Max Meyers Law PLLC, our attorneys are committed to protecting motorcyclists and advocating for them when they are involved in accidents caused by someone else’s negligence. That doesn’t change, regardless of whether or not lane splitting occurred at the time of the accident. If you need an advocate you can count on after your motorcycle accident, call us now at 425-399-7000

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