New Utah laws address zipper merge, lane filtering, excessive speeding

April 1, 2022

Keith Goble

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Multiple new laws in Utah address road safety issues.

One new law is intended to clarify how drivers need to merge along multilane roadways into one lane.

Utah law now mandates that drivers in the lane ending must yield to drivers in the lane that continues.

Gov. Spencer Cox has signed into law a bill to require vehicle operators to use the “zipper” method when two traffic lanes merge into one traffic lane.

The method has drivers use both lanes of travel when approaching a work zone or when lanes merge together as one lane ends, and waiting until the lane ends before taking turns moving into the single lane.

Previously HB76, the new law takes effect on May 4.

Need for change

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, says the state’s existing rule is “a little bit vague.” As a result, the rule leaves drivers confused and can result in road rage.

“You’ve got the early merger, who moves over immediately. And then there’s someone who speeds to the end of the lane as fast as they can, and there’s usually some guy in a big pickup truck that decides to defend the vehicular virtue of all other drivers by going in between both lanes and sitting there to make sure that nobody else speeds up to the end,” Brammer previously testified.

Brammer said that using the zipper merge speeds up traffic by up to 40%.

Popular method?

State departments of transportation across the country encourage drivers to practice the merge method to improve road safety and traffic flow.

Despite the steps taken by state DOTs, many motorists consider it to be rude to wait until the last moment to merge into one lane.

Additionally, some Utah law enforcement officials do not think enforcement is viable. They cite already congested traffic and the problems created when pulling over someone in affected areas.

Excessive speeding

Another new law targets the worst-of-the-worst speeders in the state.

Previously SB53, the new rule classifies driving at least 100 mph to be reckless driving. Driving at least 25 mph in excess of the posted speed would also be classified as reckless driving.

According to the Utah Department of Safety, one year ago there were more than 4,700 drivers pulled over in the state for speeding over 100 mph.

The new law sets a minimum fine for driving 100 mph or faster.

Specifically, fines could not be less than 150% of the suggested fine in the state’s “uniform fine schedule.” Fines vary based on the posted speed limit.

Additionally, a reckless driving classification is included for driving 105 mph or faster. Violators could face fines up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Lane filtering

One more new road safety law covers the state’s lane filtering rule.

Existing law allows motorcycles to move between stopped vehicles on roads with a posted speed limit of 45 mph or less.

A 2019 law allows motorcycles traveling 15 mph or less on roadways with two adjacent lanes to split travel lanes when traffic is stopped. The “lane filtering” rule had a sunset date of July 1, 2022.

HB10 extends the sunset date five years to July 1, 2027.

The extension was recommended by the Utah Department of Public Safety to gather more data.

The rule also permits motorcyclists to move to the front of a traffic light. Motorcyclists can only move to the front when vehicles are stopped.

Advocates say that lane splitting is beneficial because it saves motorcyclists time and fuel. They say the practice also helps many motorcycles avoid overheating while sitting in traffic.

Some people in the trucking industry have raised road safety concerns about motorcyclists attempting the maneuver around large vehicles. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Utah.

 

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.