Nevada lawmakers considered a measure Friday that would allow motorcyclists to skip traffic jams by driving between the lanes — as long as they’re careful.
Assemblyman Skip Daly, D-Sparks, presented Assembly Bill 236 to members of the Senate transportation committee as a safety bill.
“When you have the ability to do lane splitting, it increases the statistics about the safety of the road,” Daly said.
It also addresses overheating problems because many motorcycles are air-cooled and don’t do well idling in traffic when it’s hot outside, a particular concern for riders in southern Nevada, he added. The same is true for the riders who often wear heavy leather for safety.
The bill allows motorcyclists to drive up to 10 mph faster than slow-moving traffic, and up to a maximum of 30 mph. Lane splitting would only be allowed when there are at least two lanes going the same direction.
Currently, only on-duty police officers are allowed to split traffic. California is the only state that allows civilians to lane split.
Rear-end collisions account for about 1 in 5 motorcycle accidents, Pete VanderAa with the state Department of Public Safety told the committee.
Proponents call it a safety issue, because rear-end collisions at “even 5 to 10 mph can cause serious injury or even death to a motorcycle driver,” said Ernie Adler, a lobbyist for the Northern Nevada Confederation of Clubs.
The chances of such collisions would be “significantly less” with the passage of this bill, said Bob Roshak of the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association.
“I think it’s safe if it’s followed in the way the bill is written,” he said of lane splitting. “With the low speeds it makes sense.”
The bill requires drivers to be mindful of the conditions and drive accordingly, so reckless driving could still lead to tickets.
Rick Eckhardt, a Reno resident who has been riding motorcycles more than 40 years, urged lawmakers to pass the bill.
“The lane splitting for us is a safety factor,” he said. “We don’t want to be between those two cars when the conditions are dangerous.”
But for Assemblyman Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, who experienced lane splitting while living in California, the practice doesn’t make sense for Nevada’s highway infrastructure.
“Overall it becomes a pretty dangerous situation,” said Anderson who voted against the bill twice in the Assembly. “We’re not known for having safest streets anyways, and adding traffic between the lanes just adds to the hazards.”
The Assembly passed the measure last week, and the committee chair, Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, said the bill will be brought for a vote before the next deadline.