Lane filtering for motorcyclists set to become legal in Utah

Picture of a motorcyclists filtering through traffic, unknown date and location | Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Safety, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah drivers will see more instances of motorcyclists traveling between lanes as the new lane filtering law goes into effect Tuesday.

For motorcyclists, lane filtering means passing stopped vehicles in the same lane or going the same direction of traffic. This allows for motorcyclists to move between two lanes when traffic is stopped at an intersection.

Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said he sponsored the bill after experiencing firsthand the dangers of being a motorcyclist in traffic. He said the first step in creating the bill was to gather data, which he found from Berkeley University, Australia and Europe; the data highlighted the benefits and detriments of lane splitting, but the transportation committee only applied aspects of the findings it found to be more beneficial, he said.

Brooks said the Department of Public Safety discovered that just under 20% of traffic deaths were caused by cars rear-ending motorcycles. The data also showed that areas that allowed lane filtering “showed a significant reduction in accidents.”

In order for motorcyclists to do so legally, each instance of lane filtering must meet these requirements:

  • The speed limit must be 45 mph or less.
  • The road must have two or more lanes traveling in the same direction.
  • Motorcyclists can only filter between stopped vehicles.
  • The speed of the motorcycle must not exceed 15 mph while traveling between lanes.
  • The movements must be made safely.

Brooks said after three years the committee will reconvene to evaluate the effectiveness of the law.

“There’s enough confidence in the data that we feel it’s going to be a positive thing, but we also want to be cautious. I really believe that good data drives good decisions. That’s why we reached out for solid data to see [if this] was really going to [enact] positive change.”

Graphic illustrating the proper way to filter between lanes according to the new Utah law that goes into effect Tuesday | Graphic courtesy of the Department of Public Safety, St. George News

Brooks said lane filtering is not mandatory for motorcyclists and Utah’s lane filtering is not the same as California’s lane splitting, which allows drivers to travel in between moving traffic.

At first, it’s going to be a little spooky, but we tried to reduce the spook factor. I think we’re going to see an improvement in traffic flow and safety.”

David Jones, a motorcyclist from Beaver, said laws like this can be a “double-edged sword.”

“If it is done correctly it offers safety for the rider in the fact that a car or truck back/ brake lights are more visible. On the down side, drivers are not used to motorcycles lane filtering. The riders are at risk if the driver is startled and maneuvers toward the bike and rider.”

Sgt. Tyrell Bangerter of the St. George Police Department said he hopes drivers will be patient and understanding of motorcyclists and why they are participating in lane filtering.

“Hopefully we don’t have a lot of the road rage issues that could come up with drivers feeling like other motorcyclists are trying to cut them off,” he said.

Brooks said he has also thought of the road rage that might occur from people feeling that motorcyclists are “cheating their way up through.”

We should be courteous drivers no matter what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re trying to all get to the same place, and if we can do it in a more efficient way then that’s better.”

Bangerter said he hopes riders and drivers will educate themselves on the laws going into effect. He said he encourages all riders to review the DPS website and only participate in lane filtering if they are confident in their riding abilities.

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