A new traffic law will soon allow for motorcyclists in Utah to “filter” between stopped vehicles at traffic lights.
The law, House Bill 149, was passed by the Utah Legislature during the 2019 general session, and it goes into effect May 14.
Springville resident Parker Boyack, a motorcycle rider who advocated for the law, said passing the law was the easy part — educating people about what it does before it goes into effect is the challenge. Many people confuse lane filtering, a motorcycle moving between stopped vehicles, with lane splitting, which is a motorcycle driving between moving vehicles.
Utah’s new lane filtering law allows motorcycle riders to filter between two lanes of stopped vehicles on roads with less than a 45 mph speed limit. The motorcycles can’t go faster than 15 mph while filtering, and the movement has to be made safely.
Boyack said he practiced lane filtering regularly when he lived in California, the only other state where the practice is legal.
“It was the easiest, most natural thing,” Boyack said. “It just made so much sense. It reduced the congestion and made it a lot safer for me to get out of the way, and get in front of everybody.”
Boyack says many drivers who see a motorcycle filter for the fist time may think the motorcyclist is just impatient and trying to cut in line. That’s not the case, as it has much more to do with motorcyclist’s safety than anything else.
“It’s purely getting out of the way and ahead of everybody else so that you are less likely to come in contact with cars,” Boyack said. “Not getting ahead so you can beat them, but purely positioning yourself in the safest spots, which happens to be in between cars. So many people have a hard time understanding that.”
Filtering puts motorcycles in a position at stop lights where they are less likely to be rear-ended, and also ensures that all those cars are aware of the cyclist, helping them drive more aware, Boyack said.
Once the cyclist filters to the front, Boyack said it’s typically easy to accelerate faster than the cars once a light turns green so it’s not a problem merging back into a lane.
In a video posted to the Utah Department of Public Safety’s website, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said it’s important to help motorists understand the benefit of lane filtering. From 2011 to 2017, 1,288 motorcyclists were rear-ended on Utah roads, Street said. Some of those were severe injuries, some were fatalities.
“It’s for everyone’s safety,” Street said in the video. “For the safety of the motorcyclists and it also benefits the motoring public because (a motorcyclist is) no longer taking that vehicle’s space, so traffic is flowing a little faster.”
Street also cautioned motorcyclists that they can be cited if an officer does not believe the move was made with reasonable safety.
According to the Department of Public Safety’s website, these are a few of the roads where lane filtering will be common once the law takes effect:
Salt Lake County
1600 North, Orem
800 North, Orem