With the Utah legislative session winding down, lawmakers are considering a proposed law, House Bill 410, that would make Utah more like California and allow motorcycle riders to start traveling “between the lanes.” If you’ve been to California, you have likely seen motorcycles “splitting the lane,” especially when there is a traffic slowdown.
According to KSL News, the Utah legislature is considering allowing this practice – under certain conditions. Those conditions are that the motorcycle needs to be able to pass vehicles safely and go no more than 40 mph. Local physical therapist and motorcyclist Dave Moss, a proponent of the bill, spoke to lawmakers and stated that several studies from around the world show that riding between the lanes can actually be safer than staying in a slow-moving traffic lane. Crashes that happen, he says, also will be less severe. Other byproducts of the proposed law could be increased interest in riding a motorcycle, leading to lower vehicle emissions and less road wear.
Legally speaking, liability would be problematic for a motorcycle rider that gets hit while riding between lanes. Although the law could be changed to actually allow this, the question is whether a reasonable and prudent motorcycle rider would ride this way. At the end of the day, a jury might decide that reasonably prudent motorcyclists should not split lanes and throw the claim out. Same thing for passing on the right: although it’s not illegal to do this in Utah, many people feel that it’s not the reasonable or safe thing to do. As for me, I think allowing this opens the door to motorcyclists going much faster than 40 mph between cars, as I have seen in California. Motorcycle crashes that come from this kind of aggressive driving can be catastrophic.
Ron Kramer is a personal injury practicing law in West Jordan and throughout Utah.