On Monday; January 30th, 2017, bikers from across the State of Washington filled Senate Hearing Room Number 1 to give the Senate Transportation Committee the information on two bills that affect the motorcycling community of the state. So many bikers filled the room, and wanted to speak on both the lane sharing, and helmet bills that the Committee combined the testimony period of both bills to make things more efficient. Even with this there were thirteen speakers on the helmet bill, and five on lane sharing.
The hearing included good information, and a little levity from both sides as the proceedings began to drag out. There were good exchanges between the bikers testifying and the committee, which seemed to be open to both of the bills being discussed. Several of the bikers giving testimony were women who spoke of the pain and discomfort being forced to wear a helmet caused them. Others spoke of accidents and injuries suffered with no impact on the helmets. One, Keith Parkison from Wenatchee described a neck injury his wife Angela suffered in a crash that the emergency room physician informed them was probably caused due to the weight of the helmet causing stress on her neck. As the committee listened, bikers explained the risks of wearing helmets under adverse conditions, and the risks being forced to wear the devices could bring to riders. That is why the group was supporting SB5156 that would allow riders the option of not wearing a helmet providing they carry proof of meeting the states financial responsibility law by having at least the minimum liability insurance required for automobiles in Washington State.
While supportive of the concept of lane sharing, the group was not in agreement with the language of the lane sharing bill SB5378. The main concern was a clause in the bill that would have required riders to pass only on the left side of vehicles in the farthest left lane of traffic. Thus placing them between the fastest lane of traffic, the rumble strip, roadside debris, and the jersey barrier or cable barrier. I personally informed the prime sponsor of the bill Senator Tim Sheldon (D 35th Dist.) that I felt that part of the bill was dangerous, and likely to cause injury or death to a motorcyclist. I also requested he substitute the language of House Bill 1157 which was a much more clean and concise bill on the same practice. Senator Sheldon then asked if the lane description was the only issue I had, and not the speed requirement. When informed that I agreed with the speed requirement of the bill, as it complied with the basic California Highway Patrol guidelines of 2013 for lane sharing/splitting Senator Sheldon seemed satisfied with the reply (I learned today that he had offered a striker amendment, changing the language of the bill).
Both of these issues seemed to be accepted quite positively by the committee, with little direct opposition from the committee. Only brief opposition was brought forward by the Thurston County Sheriff, Washington Traffic Safety Board, and the Washington State Patrol. The latter of which brought no facts forward to refute any of the previous testimony, but merely stated that she hoped she never had to go to another "fatal accident scene, of deliver another death notification". This seemed to be only a hollow attempt to play on the committees emotions rather than their intellect.
Now it is simply a matter of waiting to find the results of the committee members decision on both bills on whether to pass them out of the committee by the February 24th deadline or not. Personally, without some logical reason, I can't really see why both bills should not be brought forward, and eventually debated on the floor of the Senate. If and when that happens, I will keep everyone posted.
Catch you on the road sometime...