Legislative Update 1-30-2017

There are two bills scheduled for hearings today, a helmet reform bill and a bill addressing lane sharing.

SB 5156 Motorcycle Helmet Use:  This bill allows for adult freedom of choice for people 18 years old and older.  The underlying language has a provision that requires mandatory liability insurance for any person opting to ride without a helmet, which is an interesting twist to the perennial issue.  While the Washington Road Riders Association would not advise that riders not utilize quality safety equipment, we believe that motorcycle helmet usage, as with all safety gear, is a personal choice that should be left up to the individual.  Helmet mandates are a flawed tact, operating under the concept of “safer crashing” as opposed to the superior tact of more qualified motorcycle operation.

SB 5378 Modifying the operation of motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic:  This bill presents the same language that passed out of the Senate in 2015, which moves motorcycles to the left of the left most traffic on multi-lane (two or more each way) numbered state routes.  While the underlying language is not a viable option to most riders, what does exist is a legislative vehicle to further the issue of lane sharing/splitting.  The language can, and should, be amended to allow proper lane sharing.  It will be proposed today that the committee amend the language to match the language of Rep. MacEwen’s HB 1157 which allows for operation between lanes of traffic, not to exceed 35 mph total or 10 mph above the speed of traffic.

Lane Sharing Talking Points:

Accidents will not increase.
By moving between lanes the need to scan the rear 180 degrees of area is eliminated, and the need to side scan is lessened, allowing the rider to concentrate forwards, locating potential conflicts well in advance.
Maximum speed differential between bikes and autos will be 10 MPH (15 FPS) allowing a 2-3 car length minimum distance for rider reaction.
Injuries will not increase.
A study done by UC Berkley indicated that the optimum speed differential between a motorcycle splitting lanes and the surrounding traffic should be in the 10 MPH range. With the 10 MPH (15 FPS) speed differential any collisions that might occur will be more as a bump or brush than the catastrophic collisions that could occur at greater differential speeds incident with a rear end collision.
Vehicles will not change lanes into motorcycles.
With the 2-3 (minimum) car length advance scan available riders will see the potential lane change situation developing well enough in advance to mitigate the hazard. Any spot opening up in a lane that will allow a vehicle to change lanes will be spotted by the rider as it opens up so that they can respond appropriately.
As an overtaking vehicle, a motorcycle will still bear the responsibility incumbent with being an overtaking vehicle.
Enforcement will not be any more difficult than with the current statute.
Enforcement could even be easier, as an officer could make the discretionary call that lane sharing/splitting is being done in a safe and sane manner, therefore no enforcement pursuit is necessary.
High speed lane splitting (illegal under current and potential statutes) will continue to be problematic for pursuit and apprehension.

Comments can be submitted on line by following these links.  SB 5156    SB 5378 

If you don’t know yet who your representatives are (for shame), follow this link. 

Until next time,

Ride safely and legislate well,

“Texas” Larry

Government Relations

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