Utah State law has a thorough code for bicyclists, with detailed laws establishing proper bicycle operations while riding on the road. The Utah bicycle laws make clear that bicycles are considered moving vehicles and are therefore subject to Utah traffic laws. While you are probably already familiar with traffic laws from driving motor vehicles, following the same regulations while on a bike can be a bit confusing. Understanding bicycle laws will help you avoid an accident. The following list outlines some of the basic bicycle laws in Utah. If you would like to read the laws in their entirety, visit the website of the Utah State Legislature at www.le.utah.gov.
- A police officer may stop a bicyclist at any time to inspect and/or test the bicycle if the officer has reason to believe that it is unsafe or not equipped in conjunction with state laws. (41-6a-1110)
- All bicyclists must have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. In addition, a bicyclist is not permitted to carry packages, packs, bundles, or any other article that prevents him/her from keeping both hands on the handle bars. (41-6a-1112)
- A bicycle may only carry the number of persons it is designed for. Single-rider bicycles are not permitted to carry more than one person. (41-6a-1103)
- A bicyclist may never be attached to a moving motorized vehicle. (41-6a-1104)
- Bicycles must not be equipped with a horn or a siren. (41-6a-1113)
- Bicycles must have proper, functioning brakes. The brakes must have the capacity to stop the bicycle within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour. (41-6a-1113)
- Before a right-hand turn, the bicyclist must extend his/her right hand and arm horizontally to signal to other motorists his/her intent to turn right. (41-6a-1109)
- A bicyclist can make a left-hand turn from the left-turn lane, or proceed through the intersection, stop at the corner of the opposite side, and turn left with the normal flow of traffic once the signal turns green. (41-6a-1108)
- A bicyclist is not required to signal by hand or arm continuously if the hand is needed to maintain proper control of the bicycle. (41-6a-1109)
- Bicyclists are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and to give an audible signal before overtaking them. (41-6a-1106)
- A person may park his/her bicycle on a sidewalk as long as it is not prohibited by a traffic-control device and does not impede normal flow of pedestrian traffic. (41-6a-1107)
- When being ridden at night, a bicycle must be equipped with a front headlight, a rear red deflector, and side reflecting devices. Each of these devices must be visible for 500 feet. (41-6a-1114)
Utah Bicycle Helmet Laws
Over 80 million people regularly ride bicycles in the United States, whether as a form of transportation or simple outdoor recreation. Yet the United States does not have a federal law mandating that adult bicyclists wear protective safety helmets. However, many state and local governments have enacted laws to enforce the use of bicycle helmets. Nationwide, only fourteen states lack laws requiring the use of helmets. Utah is one of these states. It is within the legal rights of Utah bicyclists to choose not to wear a helmet if they are over the age of 18. However, statistics show that helmets substantially help prevent serious injuries and death. The following is a summary of research and statistics compiled by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. It is my hope that these statistics will reinforce the legitimacy of helmets for those of you who do not wear them.
In 2007, the latest year in which conclusive data is available, 700 bicyclists died on the road, 90% of which deaths resulted from accidents involving a motor vehicle. The average bicycle fatality involved a male cyclist over the age of 16, riding in an urban area without a safety helmet. Furthermore, over 63% of these fatalities resulted from traumatic brain injuries. In addition to these fatalities, 67,000 bicyclists suffered serious head injuries, many of which could have easily been avoided with a safety helmet. In fact, helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 85%.
Helmets greatly reduce your chances of dying in the event of an accident. In 2006, 95% of the bicyclists who died in traffic accidents were not wearing helmets. Safety advocacy groups have increased public-safety campaigns to promote helmet use, and yet less than 40% of adult cyclists wear them on a regular basis. The decision to not wear a helmet is simply incongruous with the fact that they prevent injuries and save lives.
The Utah Department of Health conducted a ten-year, in-state study (1994 – 2003) that examined the correlation between bicycle injuries, fatalities, and helmet usage. According to the research, an average of 940 Utah cyclists are injured in traffic accidents every year. In addition, an average of seven bicyclists are killed in accidents with motor vehicles each year. The study also found that over the course of ten years, helmet usage in all age groups increased. However, too many cyclists still fail to protect themselves with helmets. In 2003, only 19% of Utahns were consistently wearing helmets while riding. In light of the fact that Utah has the tenth-highest rate of bicycle fatalities in the nation, we can easily see the necessity for safety helmets.
You can purchase a helmet for as little as $15 at your local K-Mart, Wal-Mart, or Target. Although Utah law does not require you to wear a helmet, I strongly encourage you to use one whenever you ride your bicycle. This one simple act could save your life.
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