A bill that will permit motorcycle "lane splitting" sits stalled in the Arizona legislature. Legalized lane splitting could have saved the lives of three motorcyclists killed in yesterday's horrific Phoenix crash caused by a careless dump truck driver.
Yesterday's horrific accident when a dump truck driver reportedly took his eyes off the road to go "fishing for papers." He collided with three stationary motorcyclists waiting behind a line of four cars at an intersection. The truck then caught fire with the riders trapped underneath.
According to ABC-15, the riders were dragged 75 yards underneath the flaming truck in something that the news channel describes as "a disturbing and horrific scene."
"I saw the fire go up and black smoke off the truck, I saw motorcycles and people all over the pavement," one witness told the station.
Had the three dead and six critically injured motorcyclists been able to safely and legally move to the front of the line of four cars reportedly in front of them at the stoplight, they'd have been, at minimum, cushioned from the impact and not trapped under the truck. At best, they've have avoided injury altogether.
Lane splitting — the practice of carefully riding through stationary or very slow moving traffic — is inexplicably controversial in the US and Canada, yet legal and encouraged in just about every other industrialized country in the world. It was also recently made legal in California. It's generally accepted to be a safe, environmentally friendly practice that reduces the odds of motorcyclists being killed or injured in rear end collisions. It also reduces congestion.
Even while equipped with full safety gear that often includes a helmet, a back protector, body armor, a leather jacket, leather pants, reinforced gloves, and protective boots, motorcyclists lack the inherent safety of an automobile. When in motion, they can take advantage of their machine's diminutive size and increased agility, but when stationary, motorcyclists remain uniquely vulnerable to rear-end collisions.
The 1981 Hurt Report is the last and only major statistical analysis of motorcycle accident cause factors. It's generally accepted to be the motorcycle safety bible, forming the statistical basis for helmet laws and other legislation concerning roadgoing two-wheelers. It concluded that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by preventing rear-end collisions.
Approximately three-fourths of motorcycle accidents [surveyed] involved a collision with another vehicle. In two-thirds of these accidents, the driver of the other vehicle... caused the collision." — The Hurt Report, 1981
The US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System also indicates that fatalities resulting motorcycle rear-end collisions are 30% lower in California, where lane splitting is legal, than they are in Florida or Texas, which enjoy similar riding seasons and demographics but don't allow lane splitting.
Arizona's HB2475 will allow motorcyclists in the state to split lanes of stationary traffic. If the Arizona state senate passes it, lane splitting will be made legal in Maricopa county for a one-year trial period. If that proves successful, which statistics indicate it will, the law could be rolled out across the entire state.
It's too late for these three motorcyclists, but future lives can be saved by killing laws against lane splitting in Arizona and the rest of the country.