Proposed law would allow motorcyclists to pass between cars

Ben Giles//November 28, 2017

Proposed law would allow motorcyclists to pass between cars

Ben Giles//November 28, 2017


Arizona could follow in California’s footsteps by drafting rules to allow motorcyclists to pass between two vehicles in adjacent lanes.

A bill sponsored by Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, would require the Department of Public Safety to develop “educational guidelines” for the maneuver, known as lane-splitting. Farnsworth’s SB 1007 would also make it legal for a motorcycle to pass a vehicle in the same lane the vehicle occupies.

Farnsworth said he’s not particularly invested in the bill, which would need to get a hearing in the Senate to be considered and approved by the Legislature.

Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa)

“It’s not something I’m passionate about, or that came from my own desire, just a constituent seemed to have a reasonable concern,” Farnsworth said.  “And I knew because of our long process at the Legislature I’m confident the truth will come out, whether it’s a good idea or not.”

That constituent, Mesa resident Robert Glover, wants Arizona to mimic California by legalizing lane-splitting. California is the only state that permits the maneuver because there’s nothing in state law explicitly banning or allowing lane-splitting.

Arizona law bans the maneuver, but Farnsworth’s bill would strip that language from state statute and instead require DPS to work with the Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and “a motorcycle organization focused on motorcycle safety” to draft guidelines for safe lane-splitting.

That’s similar to a 2016 California law the requires the California Highway Patrol to draft similar safety guidelines. That’s something the highway patrol had already done in 2013, but those guidelines were removed from circulation in 2015 after a citizen complained that the agency was unilaterally setting policy.

A spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol said guidelines complying with the 2016 law are still in development. Once complete, California will become the first state to formalize the practice of lane-splitting.

California lawmakers approved the law because they were convinced lane-splitting helps reduce traffic congestion and promotes safety. Glover made similar arguments to convince Farnsworth to sponsor the bill. In an email, Glover wrote that he’s contacting other legislators to garner support for SB 1007.

Glover has tried to legalize the maneuver in other states, as well. As an Oregon resident, he spent years trying to help push lane-splitting bills through the Oregon Legislative Assembly to no avail. In written testimony there, he wrote of his time as a southern California resident spent lane-splitting on his morning commute. He cited the safety benefits of lane-splitting —  a reduction in rear-end collisions involving motorcycles, and less motorcycles overheating while idling in stop-and-go traffic — and reduced congestion by effectively eliminating motorcycles from traffic.

Those arguments echo those made by the American Motorcyclist Association, which cited a U.S. Department of Transportation study that found moderate to heavy traffic is more often than not associated with motorcycle crashes, and that “reducing a motorcyclists exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating” can help reduce the risk of motorcycle crashes.

A study by the University of California at Berkeley found that lane-splitting motorcyclists are “significantly less likely to be struck from behind,” according to the AMA website.