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JayMac: Will lane filtering save motorcyclists’ lives?

Michael Zimmer, of Roy, arrives for a meeting about motorcycle safety hosted by The Riderz Association at Caesars Motorcycle Empire in Midvale on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

It’s now legal for motorcyclists to filter between stopped cars and trucks. But there are rules: the speed limit on the road must not exceed 45 mph and filtering is not allowed on freeways. The road has to have at least two lanes in the same direction. A motorcyclist cannot travel faster than 15 mph when passing stopped vehicles.

You might be thinking why would lawmakers pass such a law? Why do motorcyclists get to cut in line? Why the special privileges? Sounds kinda dangerous, right?

But this isn’t an issue of providing convenience for riders. It’s really a matter of safety. Apparently, drivers of cars and trucks have a difficult time seeing motorcyclists in a phenomenon called “inattentive blindness.” So even when a motorcyclist is right in front of them, the driver doesn’t see the rider.

In Utah in 2018, there were 47 motorcyclist fatalities, an increase of 24% from 2017. This year is on par to match the record number of fatalities.

The most common type of accident is a rear-end crash, which accounts for 40% of accidents in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety first

This new law allows the rider to get up to the front of the line. The motorcyclist will be ahead of traffic, not stuck behind it, getting them out of the way of drivers who can’t see them.

Motorcyclists aren’t jumping ahead in line. Yes, there are those drivers that think they have somehow lost the Battle of the Day if they let someone ahead of them in line. Their day is now ruined. But the rider is actually getting out of line and opening up a space for a vehicle to move forward. Riders only hold up traffic when they’re stuck in line with the other cars and trucks.

Also, Utah’s helmet law only applies to riders and passengers who are younger than 18. So anything that improves the safety of any motorcyclist — by lowering the chance of a rear-end collision — is a good thing, right?

The next time you see a motorcyclist move ahead of you while you’re in your car stopped for a traffic light, think of that move as an improvement in safety: a rear-end crash that never had a chance to occur.

But there are still law-breakers no matter how many safety improvements are made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed motorcyclists flying through traffic while weaving between moving vehicles. All it takes is one car to swerve, unexpectedly change lanes or brake suddenly. And, just like that, you’re dead. Your life is over. But no enforcement, no regulation is ever going to stop the reckless motorist.
Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Don’t forget to review and subscribe to the JayMac News Show podcast on Apple Podcasts. Or follow Jay on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.