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Is Lane Splitting Legal in Arizona?

Lane splitting is a term applied to motorcyclists that drive between two lanes of traffic heading in the same direction. A motorcyclist might lane split, for example, to bypass lanes of slowed traffic. Since the legalization of lane splitting in the neighboring state of California (the first state in the country to officially make the practice legal), people in Arizona have wondered if the Grand Canyon State will do the same. With Senate Bill 1007 waiting in the wings to pass through the legislature this month, this might be the case in the near future.

Currently, Lane Splitting in Arizona Is Against the Law

As of February 2018, lane splitting in Arizona remains illegal. Section 29-903 of the Arizona Revised Statutes states that no motorcyclist shall “overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle overtaken.” It also prohibits operating a motorcycle between the lanes of traffic or between two adjacent rows of vehicles. In other words, no motorcyclist shall use the same lane or the space between lanes to pass other vehicles – no lane-splitting. The only time the state of Arizona permits motorcycle lane-splitting is if the motorcyclist is a peace officer performing official duties.

As soon as a motorcyclist passes the border from California into Arizona, he or she must obey Arizona’s no lane-splitting laws. Breaking the lane-splitting rule in Arizona is a traffic infraction that could result in tickets and fines. If a motorcyclist causes an accident because of lane-splitting or trying to overtake another vehicle in the same lane, the motorcyclist will most likely be liable for damages. Breaking the current statutes and driving between lanes is an act of negligence unless the motorcyclist cut between vehicles to avoid a collision or other hazard. However, Arizona’s laws could change in the near future.

Is Legal Lane-Splitting in Arizona’s Future?

All motorcycle operators must obey the law and drive and pass vehicles like other motorists, until and unless the Senate passes the recent bill on the subject. Arizona lawmakers introduced a similar bill legalizing lane-splitting back in 2010, but it never passed. Senator David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, reintroduced the bill for the 2018 legislative session. The Senator said he reintroduced it upon request by a constituent, and would be more passionate about it if there were more studies showing that lane-splitting is safe.

Lane-splitting would become legal in Arizona if SB 1007 passes through Senate this year. SB 1007 aims to strike out clauses (b) and (c) in the state’s motorcycle statutes, making it legal to lane-split and to overtake and pass vehicles in the same lane the vehicles occupy. Senate is currently reviewing the bill, reading it for a second time as of January 8th, 2018 (the latest published update). There is currently no announcement on whether Arizona would pass additional laws or guidelines for lane-splitting, as has the state of California, to increase the safety of the practice.

The Lane-Splitting Controversy in Arizona

The legalization of lane-splitting is a controversial topic among motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike. While many believe it could relieve traffic congestion, not everyone is convinced its legalization would be good for the state’s drivers. The director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said the organization doesn’t like the idea of lane-splitting, and the Arizona Department of Transportation agrees, saying it’s a dangerous practice. A study from Berkeley, on the other hand, found that lane-splitting is “reasonably safe” when done under 50 miles per hour.

The reason the 2010 bill to legalize lane-splitting in AZ failed was because former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it, saying she had concerns that some citizens didn’t see it as safe. Motorcyclists are also split on the subject, with some believing it increases the safety of motorcyclists while others believing the opposite. Motorcyclists might be able to avoid rear-end collisions, save time, and stay out of stopped traffic with lane-splitting. On the other hand, it could startle other drivers, increase road rage, and cause accidents. For now, the fate of lane-splitting in Arizona rests with Senate.

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