Washington State Senate Introduces Bill to Legalize Lane Splitting

Earlier this week, Washington state lawmakers discussed a bill introduced by state senator Tim Sheldon that would legalize lane splitting in the state. If passed, Washington would join California as the only states that legally allow lane splitting.

Legislature 5 ThingsAccording Senate Bill 5623, the new law would allow Washington motorcyclists to split lanes when traffic is moving at a speed of 25 mph or slower. During these maneuvers, however, riders would only be allowed to move 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic. The proposed law also stated that drivers could get ticketed if they attempt to impede passing motorcyclists.

Washington state lawmakers are considering this bill mostly because of increased levels of congestion on Washington highways– Seattle is currently ranked as the 4th worst city in the United States in regards to traffic.

“The more our freeways look like those of Los Angeles, the more we need to think about such things,” said Senator Sheldon during Tuesday’s hearings. “This is really a safety measure. When our highways become parking lots at rush hour, this will reduce the risk of rear-end accidents and keep at least some traffic moving.”

While gaining strong support (34 of 43 attendees were in favor), not everybody felt the same way. In fact, some at the Washington hearing vehemently disagreed with the bill, including Shelly Baldwin of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. During the meeting, Baldwin showcased a series of statistics concerning motorcyclists’ predisposition towards being involved in an accident, stating…

  • The fact that motorcycles comprise only 4 percent of the state vehicles, but account for 17 percent of fatalities– most of which are due to the rider’s fault. She also implied that increased freedom would cause that number to surge.
  • The fact that only 21 times in the past 4 years have motorcycles been rear-ended by other vehicles. Instead, motorcycles were far more likely to rear-end other vehicles.

After presenting these facts, she then– in a controversial move– showed Youtube videos of lane splitting gone wrong.

seattle2“We don’t see this type of illegal activity right now in Washington,” Baldwin said in her wrap-up, “but if we open it up and that becomes the norm, we will see more activity like that.”

Still, there were many in attendance that stuck to their guns and continued to support the lane splitting effort, stating that Baldwin’s facts and presentation were misplaced and dramatized. They also stated that their plans to move forward with the bill will not be deterred.

So, what do you think? Should Washington pass this controversial bill, and should more cities consider implementing similar laws?

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