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Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

May 27, 2022

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Lane splitting on a motorcycle is a technique many riders use to move through slow or stationary traffic up to 10 mph faster than other vehicles. While this practice is common in most countries, lane splitting is illegal in most states in the United States.

In states where lane splitting on a motorcycle is legal, the guidelines are typically developed with the local highway patrol, state police, and state motor vehicle division.

However, the legality of motorcycle lane splitting is still somewhat of a gray area in most states.

Were you in an accident involving lane splitting on a motorcycle? If so, contact the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, to seek legal counsel from our personal injury attorney.

Call our motorcycle accident lawyers at  (888) 424-5757 or fill out this online contact form to schedule a free case evaluation to learn about your legal rights and options. All information you share remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Laws Related to Lane Splitting on a Motorcycle

While lane-splitting on a motorcycle may be expected, it is illegal in many areas.

What is the Purpose of Lane Splitting on a Motorcycle?

Lane splitting is driving through traffic congestion or slow-moving vehicles in the area between two traffic lanes. This technique is also known as white lining to experienced motorcyclists. Motorcyclists typically lane split to avoid stopping in heavy or stopped traffic.

According to the University of California Berkeley, lane splitting on a motorcycle may be safer for motorcyclists since it reduces the risk of rear-end collisions. Motorcyclists who pass between lanes eliminate the risk of any motor vehicles hitting them from behind.

Moreover, most motorcyclists use this technique while going under 50mph, reducing the risk of injury.

There are two other types of techniques motorcyclists use to get through traffic:

  • Lane filtering – Moving between stopped or slow-moving traffic at a slower speed than lane splitting on a motorcycle
  • Lane sharing – Sharing the same lane with another motorcyclist either side-by-side or in a line

Lane sharing and lane filtering are sometimes considered lane splitting on a motorcycle. Therefore, motorcyclists must know their state’s specific lane-splitting guidelines before using these techniques.

Where Lane Splitting on a Motorcycle is Legal: Lane Filtering vs Lane Splitting

Lane splitting on a motorcycle is explicitly or implicitly legal in most US states. Currently, here is what the law for lane splitting, lane filtering, and lane sharing looks like in several states:

California Highway Patrol 

California is the only state to legalize lane splitting. Assembly Bill 51 (AB-51) of 2016 states that “lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400 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.”

The California Highway Patrol had tolerated lane-splitting for years, even before the administrative law was passed by then-governor Edmund Brown, Jr. Before, the California Vehicle Code did not expressly prohibit or allow lane splitting on a motorcycle.

With this law, motorcyclists can lane split legally anywhere in the state. Furthermore, the law required the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines for the motoring public.

Connecticut

To date, lane splitting is not explicitly illegal in Connecticut. However, lawmakers are considering a proposed bill that includes legalizing lane splitting, which would permit “the operator of a motorcycle to operate between lanes of traffic.”

Utah

It is not illegal to split lanes in Utah, but a lane filtering law has been in place since 2019. However, lane filtering differs from lane splitting; the latter technique involves moving past vehicles faster.

Hawaii

Lane splitting is technically not legal due to the narrow roads in Hawaii. Nevertheless, the state allows shoulder-surfing when there is slow traffic flow.

Chicago

Per Illinois statute 625 ILCS §5/11-703(c), any person operating a two-wheel vehicle cannot pass two vehicles simultaneously. Lane splitting is, therefore, not legal in Illinois. However, there is currently no law specifically prohibiting it either.

Oregon

House Bill 2314 is still under discussion. If the bill passes, motorcyclists will legally drive between cars at ten mph or more if traffic moves at ten mph or slower.

Washington

A bill to make lane splitting legal was introduced in 2015 but did not pass. In 2020, Senate Bill 5254 was reintroduced and is still pending.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts explicitly prohibits lane splitting. According to Part 1, Title XIV, Chapter 89, section 4A of the state’s general laws: “When any way has been divided into lanes, the driver of a vehicle shall so drive that the vehicle shall be entirely within a single lane.”

Texas

Efforts have been made to make lane splitting legal in Texas since 2015, but all proposals have failed to move past the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Texas Transportation Code § 545.060 states that all road users must remain within a single lane, making lane splitting illegal.

Virginia

Virginia has yet to legal lane splitting, but motorcyclists can lane share side-by-side. House Bill 1236, which aims to legalize lane splitting in the state, is awaiting approval.

Arizona

Arizona lawmakers failed to legalize lane splitting with Senate Bill 1007. But in 2020, Representative Noel Campbell introduced House Bill 2285 to restart discussions about legalizing lane splitting.

The Risks of Lane Splitting or Lane Filtering

Most states prohibit lane splitting to reduce the risk of motorcycle accidents. While it is common among many motorcyclists, lane splitting still poses some risks to motorcyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road.

Here are some lane-splitting scenarios that can lead to motorcycle accidents:

  • The motorcyclist weaving through traffic exceeds the speed limit, increasing the risk of injury in an accident.
  • Inattentive drivers fail to see the motorcyclist moving beside their vehicle, which can cause them to collide with the motorcycle while changing lanes.
  • The motorcyclist suddenly drives in front of a moving vehicle while moving through traffic, increasing the risk of being rear-ended.
  • The driver fails to see the motorcyclist in their blind spot before changing lanes.
  • The motorcyclist drives too fast and hits a pedestrian trying to pass through stopped traffic.

Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

If a motorcyclist gets into a lane-splitting accident where the practice is illegal, they may be held fully liable for the damages. However, due to the gray area in the legal status of lane splitting in most states, either both parties or the driver at fault may be held liable.

In any case, proving fault in a motorcycle collision is often complicated. Call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to discuss any responsibility and liability issues before moving forward.

Possible Damages

If you get into an accident, here are the possible damages that you or the other party may be liable for:

  • Property damage: The party at fault may be liable for paying for the damages to the other party’s car or motorcycle and surrounding public and private property.
  • Medical fees: The at-fault party’s liability may also cover the medical bills used to treat the other party’s injuries. Motorcycle insurance can help cover these costs.

What to Do When You Get into a Motorcycle Accident

Unless you are gravely injured and have to be rushed to the hospital, here are some important things to do while you are still on the scene of the accident:

  • Call the police; do not allow the other party to prevent you from doing so. An official police report is invaluable to an accident case.
  • Get the information of the other driver, including their insurance information.
  • Take pictures and videos of the scene.
  • Ask for the contact information of witnesses, if there are any.

After leaving the scene, go to the hospital immediately, even if you don’t feel or look injured. Sometimes, an injury can take days or even weeks to manifest.

If you go to a doctor immediately, they can spot the injury and help prevent it from worsening. Getting a medical report will also help you sue for physical harm if the other party is at fault.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

Riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous regardless of the traffic maneuvers your practice. That said, here are some essential motorcycle safety tips to keep in mind if you choose to lane split:

Be Aware of the Laws

If your state has yet to legalize lane splitting, do so at your own risk. Remember that California is the only state to legalize lane splitting fully, so check to see how splitting lanes is legally defined in your locality.

Go Slow

Driving between two lanes becomes more dangerous the faster you go. Traveling at a speed no more than 12mph faster than other cars is advisable. A competent rider has enough time to react to dangerous situations at this speed.

Furthermore, avoid splitting when traffic is moving at 30mph or faster. As much as possible, split only when heavy or bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Split Between No. 1 and No. 2 Lanes 

Most drivers are used to motorcycles splitting between the outside and middle lanes or the far left lanes. The lanes furthest to the right are where most drivers change lanes and are, therefore, where other road users are ready to see a motorcyclist weaving through traffic.

Don’t Split Next to Large Vehicles

Avoid splitting next to large vehicles, even if they are moving at an average speed. Trucks and buses have blind spots that prevent drivers from seeing you as you change lanes. Furthermore, large vehicles pose a greater crash severity.

Avoid Splitting if You are a Beginner

If you are new to riding a motorcycle, it is highly advisable to avoid lane splitting altogether until you gain more experience. If you must move between traffic lanes, ensure that other cars drive below 30mph.

Anticipate Possible Movements of Other Drivers

Always be alert when on the road, even when there is heavy traffic. Anticipate possible movements by other motorists and be prepared to react accordingly. For example, be aware of other drivers’ blind spots and account for distracted drivers on the road.

When moving through lanes of traffic, be aware of other motorcyclists as well. Give way and share the road as much as possible. If the other biker moves too fast, slow down and allow them to pass first.

Watch Out For Varying Road Conditions

Moving traffic is not the only potential hazard when splitting lanes. Also, be aware of uneven road surfaces, curves, unfavorable weather conditions, and obstructions.

It also helps to conduct your own safety research about possible hazards when driving a motorcycle, especially on highways.

Seek The Best Legal Counsel For Motorcycle Accidents

An accident can happen anytime, anywhere, regardless of how careful you are. Contact a personal injury lawyer if you were involved in a road accident where someone was lane-splitting or making an illegal motorcycle maneuver.

The Rosenfeld Injury Lawyer, LLC attorneys have experience dealing with motorcycle accidents, including left-turn accidents, lane-splitting accidents, speeding accidents, etc. Since lane splitting is illegal in Chicago, you need a lawyer that can maximize your financial recovery.

Call (888) 424-5757 or fill out this online contact form for a free consultation today.

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