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'I have buried way too many friends': New Arizona law aims to save motorcyclists

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill that allows motorcyclists to pass vehicles on a street with a speed limit of less than 45 mph.

PHOENIX — A piece of legislation has been signed into law that allows motorcyclists to potentially avoid dangerous collisions by passing vehicles.

Senate Bill 1273 permits two-wheeled motorcyclists to move through lanes of traffic where vehicles are stopped if the motorcyclist is on a street that is divided into at least two adjacent traffic lanes moving in the same direction.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law this week after it passed through both legislative chambers with bipartisan support. 

The law only applies to streets with speed limits less than 45 mph and motorcyclists can only pass stationary vehicles at speeds no faster than 15 mph. 

Republican Sen. Tyler Pace sponsored bill and said it shouldn't be confused with the type of lane-splitting observed on California's roads. 

"The purpose of this bill is to provide opportunities for safe exits and safe passage for our two-wheeled friends who are sharing the roadways with us," Pace said earlier this year.

The law's supporters claim the new rules allow for "lane filtering" in circumstances where traffic is backed up and a motorcyclist can safely move in between lanes. 

Michael Infanzon, who lobbies on behalf of a motorcycle safety group, said the new law is needed to help motorcyclists avoid getting rear-ended by a moving car.

"The whole point of this bill is to stop people from dying on the street," he told a House committee this month. "I have buried way too many friends..." 

At least 160 people died in motorcycle-related crashes across Arizona in 2020, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. 

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers has been advocating for the bill and said he attempted to pass similar legislation back when he was a state lawmaker several years ago.

"There's (been) a lot of needless deaths over the last 14 years that didn't have to happen," Weiers said.

Credit: Arizona Department of Transportation
Data shows how many people have died in motorcycle crashes since 2016 in Arizona.

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