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Laws that Impact Riders in Washington

  01/20/2015 at 23:03 pm

Three Laws That Impact Washington Riders

ABATE Led the Way for Citizens to Express Their Views on Laws and Legislation that Impact Washington Motorcyclists!

As riders, we all know that enjoying the open road means following the rules. Abiding by road laws ensures both rider and driver safety and keeps everyone moving. But as riders, we also know that some road laws can impact riders in negative ways, and some legislation that would keep riders safer on the roads doesn't get passed. ABATE led the way for many Washington riders to express their viewpoints on Thursday during its annual "Black Thursday" ride and demonstration. Eagle Leather is not affiliated with ABATE and chooses to remain neutral on many of the viewpoints that the group expresses, but we believe in every rider's right to his or her personal opinion on these matters. We believe it's important for both sides of every issue to be fairly expressed and for truly productive conversation to take place. As such, we want to make sure you are informed of the issues that affect Washington riders, and we want you to form your own opinions. Tell us what you think about these issues on the Eagle Leather Facebook page!

1. Helmet Laws

This issue is one that elicits passionate debate. Should a state government be allowed to tell you what you can and cannot wear while on a motorcycle, even in the name of safety? Should state taxpayers be responsible for paying the hospital bills of riders who are injured because they chose to ride without a helmet? There are many sides of this debate, and they all have their points. But for Washington riders, the law is clear--you must wear a helmet when riding. In fact, the state of Washington requires all riders, regardless of  age or experience, to wear a helmet that is US DOT certified, which means you can't wear just any helmet--it must pass federal safety standards.

2. Red Light Laws

2014 was a major year for red light laws in Washington. Have you ever been at an empty intersection on your bike and the light just won't turn green? Have you ever been forced to turn right because the signal won't change to let you through? This happens when the traffic sensor intended to detect vehicles waiting to cross intersections don't detect a motorcycle. A bill called SB 5141 was proposed in January 2013 to allow motorcycles to run red lights after exercising due caution in theses circumstances. The bill passed in March 2014 and was finally signed into law in June 2014. It reads:

“The operator of a street legal motorcycle approaching an intersection, including a left turn intersection, that is controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size of the street legal motorcycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection. If the traffic control signal,  including the left turn signal, as appropriate, fails to operate after  one cycle of the traffic signal, the operator may, after exercising due care, proceed directly through the intersection or proceed to turn left, as appropriate. It is not a defense to a violation of RCW 46.61.050 that the driver of a motorcycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic control signal used a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle when the signal did not use a vehicle detection device or that any such device was not in fact inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle.”

3. Lane-Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is the act of riding between cars driving side by side in separate lanes. Many consider it to be a dangerous riding practice that should not be allowed, while others see it as a perk of riding a motorcycle that should not be taken away from riders who would split lanes in a safe manner. As of now, lane splitting is only legal in California, so Washington riders shouldn't even consider it unless they want to be ticketed. But even in California, there are laws around lane splitting, and they are:

1. A motorcyclist should split lanes at no more than 10 mph above traffic speed.
2. A motorcyclist should not split lanes when traffic is moving at more than 30 mph.
3. A motorcyclist should split lanes using the space between the No. 1 and No. 2 lanes.”

It's important for all riders to be well-informed about the laws that impact the ride. We want to hear your thoughts on some of these issues and others. What laws are affecting you as a rider? Where would you like to see reform? Let us know on the Eagle Leather Facebook page!

By Eagle Leather