Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Legislators introduce bills to allow lane splitting in Texas, Tennessee

AUSTIN, Texas -- Legislators here and in other states have introduced bills to allow lane-splitting, a practice which to date is only allowed in California.

Texas H.B. 813, introduced by state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. (D-Palmview), would allow motorcycle riders to ride between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, if traffic is traveling 20 mph or slower, and if the motorcyclist is not traveling more than 5 mph faster than other traffic. Lane splitting would be prohibited in school zones and in areas where the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less. And riders and passengers must wear helmets. S.B. 442, introduced by state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), omits the helmet provision, but restricts lane splitting to limited-access or controlled-access highways.

AMA is also backing H.B. 1102 In Tennessee. Introduced by state Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), the bill would permit lane splitting when traffic is traveling at 45 mph or less and the motorcyclist does not exceed posted speed limits. Lane splitting would not be permitted in marked school zones when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation. 

Efforts to legalize lane-splitting are also afoot in Washington.

The American Motorcyclist Association backs the bills, but objects to helmet requirements, believing adults should be able to choose for themselves. More information on the AMA's position on helmets can be found here.

"Research and evidence suggest that lane splitting may reduce a motorcyclist's risk exposure, which is why the AMA offers conditional support to Texas H.B. 813 and S.B. 442, legislations that would allow lane splitting with the stated restrictions," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations.

Motorcycle lane splitting, sometimes also called lane filtering, occurs in many countries throughout the world—particularly in highly urbanized areas of Europe and Asia—but it is largely prohibited in the United States. A 2014 study in California found that motorcyclists engaging in responsible lane splitting were less likely to be rear ended, suffer a head injury or be involved in a fatal crash.

Other potential benefits include an increase in conspicuity because the motorcyclist is moving relative to other traffic; a reduction in motorcyclist fatigue from constant shifting and braking in stop-and-go traffic; a lessening of the risk for engine damage for air-cooled engines; a reduction in motorcyclists' exposure to ambient heat in the summer and car exhaust year-round due to fewer hours spent in traffic.

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