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JayMac: Motorcyclists are not butting in line

As of May 2019, Utah has a new motorcycle filtering law that allows bikers to navigate between stopped vehicles in order to move to the front of the traffic line. The new law is designed to imporve motorcyclists' safety.

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

You’ve probably heard or seen something about this: Pizza delivery driver decides to take the law into his own hands when he opens his driver-side door to stop a motorcyclist, who is filming with a helmet cam, from “lane filtering,” which, under a new law in Utah, allows riders to navigate between stopped vehicles, with some conditions.

So this is more or less the exchange between the two motorists that went down recently in the middle of traffic in Provo:

Biker: Hey, what’s up?
Driver: Hey, you’re supposed to be in the lane.
Biker: Yeah, it’s called “lane filtering.” It’s a new law. Close your door.
Driver: Is — is it?
Biker: It’s a new law, look it up.
Driver: When did it happen?
Biker: Like, two months ago.
Driver: Yeah?
Biker: Dude, it’s a new law. Close your door.
Driver: Yeah, man.
Biker: Close your door. Dude, close your door!

And the biker roars away.

First of all, hey, driver: Your job is to deliver pizzas, hot and on-time, NOT to enforce traffic laws.

Listen, vigilantes and all other self-appointed law enforcement officers: This kind of a power trip is dangerous and wrong every time. Don’t do it. Just let other people be.

This law was passed not because motorcyclists are special and therefore deserve to go first. Safety of the rider is why the law was passed. Lane filtering prevents riders from being rear-ended by allowing them to get out of harm’s way.

According to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries.

“Reducing a motorcyclist’s exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations.

From 2011-2017, 1,288-motorcycle involved rear-end accidents, some of which were fatal, took place on Utah roads.

This new law is not about butting in line. It’s designed to remove motorcycles from the traffic mix by moving them to the front of the line, where, when the light turns green, they can quickly move ahead and out of bunched-up traffic. Biker moves ahead, traffic fills now-empty space. Think traffic decongestant.

Here are the guidelines behind the new law:

  • Motorcyclists can move to the front of a traffic light on roads where the speed limit is 45 mph or less and has two or more adjacent traffic lanes in the same direction of travel.
  • Motorcyclists can only move to the front when vehicles are stopped. (Allow me to point out here that initially, the motorcyclist, wearing the helmet cam, began lane filtering when traffic was not completely stopped.)
  • Motorcyclists can’t move more than 15 mph when filtering lanes.

If a motorcyclist filters between your vehicle and another for the first time, it will probably be LOUD. You’ll get used to it in time. But let it happen. It is legal. It’s about bikers’ safety and NOT about cheating by cutting in line. You didn’t just have your day ruined because a motorcyclist moved ahead of you in stopped traffic.

Also, remember, if you open your door to halt a motorcyclist filtering between stopped vehicles, and that rider doesn’t see your door or can’t stop in time and is hurt as a result, you’re in trouble. That’s assault  — NOT worth it.

“[It’s] an obvious case that the gentleman that’s driving his personal vehicle for Pizza Hut needs an education on the law,” said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street.

Now you know about Utah’s new motorcycle filtering law.

And remember, leave law enforcement to … law enforcement officers.

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.