Summary of the Key Findings
- Lane splitting is illegal in most US states. The only state that allows this is California.
- There are attempts by many states to legalize lane splitting.
- Lane splitting poses a threat to motorcyclists. Inattentive drivers or other motorcyclists can hurt them if their speed increases.
- You should consult an attorney to check the lane-splitting laws in your state.
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rides along the white-dashed lines between the two traffic lanes, and it happens between two traffic lanes that are in the same direction, in moving or still traffic.
It most commonly happens when motorcyclists ride between the lanes in slow-moving traffic or standing traffic.
This is usually done to cut down on commuting time.
“Lane splitting means driving a motorcycle that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” State of California Assembly Bill No.51, Section 21658.1 of the California Vehicle Code
It’s also known as stripe-riding and white lining. Apart from motorcycle riders, cyclists and motor scooter riders tend to split lanes as well, especially in places where many cyclists have to share the road with other drivers, such as in New York.
Is Lane Splitting Legal?
California is the only state where lane splitting is legal. It became legal in January 2017 .
Lane splitting is a gray area in many US states. While there are states that explicitly prohibit this action, in others, it’s up to the Highway Patrol to determine if it’s unsafe.
This means, even in California, you can still get a ticket for lane splitting by California Highway Patrol, even if there isn’t a law that forbids it.
Some states, such as Virginia, have strict lane-splitting laws. In Virginia, motorcyclists can only move from their lane when passing another vehicle .
Georgia, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Nevada are currently considering legalizing lane splitting. Utah passed legislation enabling lane filtering in 2019 . This means that motorcyclists in Utah can go to the front of a traffic line at intersections.
In Texas, there’s been a lot of effort to make lane splitting legal, and there are currently bills filed to enable lane splitting on roads with traffic congestion and when motor vehicles are moving at 20 mph or less. The best way to check if motorcycle lane splitting is legal in your state is to contact an attorney.
Dangers of Lane Splitting
A study by the University of California at Berkeley says that motorcyclists who split lanes in traffic congestion are less likely to be hit by other motorists and are less likely to suffer fatal injuries .
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die on roads than car drivers, which is why many people claim lane splitting can help avoid rear-end collisions .
On the other hand, some people avoid lane splitting and lane sharing and claim it can cause a motorcycle accident, especially when passing large vehicles. According to the CHP’s Motorcycle Safety Program, a two-wheeled motorcycle shouldn't engage in lane splitting at all when the traffic is moving 30 mph or over .
In general, left lanes, especially far left lanes, are safer. The right lane has a lot of traffic adjusting due to the exits. Staying in the left lane will allow you to see the traffic better and avoid tall vehicles. Even in California, which made lane splitting legal, motorcyclists should split lanes in slowed or stopped traffic and slow the speed when splitting and lane sharing.
Some dangers that can happen are:
- Being pinned between two vehicles — If another driver doesn’t see the motorcycle when switching lanes, you may end up pined.
- Road rage — When people stuck in slow traffic see others moving ahead, they can get enraged.
- A motorcycle accident caused by minor actions — Minor actions can endanger the driver, such as a driver opening a door or throwing something out of a window.
- Reasons Why Car and Motorcycle Crashes Happen
- Leading Cause Of Motorcycle Accident Fatalities
- Personal Injury & Accidents Lawsuits
Why Do Motorcyclists Lane Split?
Motorcyclists engage in splitting lanes mainly to get around slow-moving or stationary traffic. Lane splitters want to save time or are in a hurry and want to pass other vehicles.
Motorcyclists split lanes because they can ride safely between two lanes in heavy traffic. There are also drivers who drive above the speed limit, such as aggressive riders who don’t follow traffic laws.
What are the rules for lane splitting?
The rules for lane splitting in California include not intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause motorcycle accidents. In other states, it’s not allowed to split lanes.
Can You Lane Split in Your State?
Many US states are proposing bills to legalize lane splitting and lane filtering. If you want to legalize lane splitting, you can start a petition or write to your senate representative. Contact a lawyer if you’re not sure if you can split the lane or lane share in your state.
Schmidt & Clark lawyers are well-versed in motorcycle law and can explain what is considered lane splitting and whether you can do it in your state. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.