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What Is Lane Splitting and Is It Legal?

Feb 06, 2023

Lane splitting is a controversial subject, with a large percentage of vehicle drivers speaking out against it, but many studies show that it could have safety benefits for motorcycle riders. It is a difficult subject that has split road users in their opinions. But let’s look at lane splitting and the legalities surrounding it, as well as the pros and cons of lane splitting.


What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is also known as white lining, lane filtering, and lane sharing. It is when motorcycle riders use a single lane as two lanes and share the lane with another motorcycle rider. Or it is when a motorcycle rider will drive past lanes of traffic without stopping. 

Some feel that this can be beneficial, while others feel that a special motorcycle lane should be created instead. Others believe it increases the risks of motorcycle accidents since riders could drive past in the blind spot of a vehicle and if the vehicle changes lanes at that very moment it could lead to disaster. 

The Benefits of Lane Splitting and Arguments Against It

There is an argument to be made for both sides. Lane-splitting motorcyclists might see the benefits more readily than someone who has been in a motor vehicle accident, but they all have valid reasons for their beliefs. That is why it is so crucial to look at both sides.  

Benefit #1: Increased Flow of Traffic and Congestion Reduction

This is a big benefit to many road users including motorcycle riders. When motorcycles are also forced to sit in heavy traffic this can greatly affect the traffic flow. More drivers, or riders, means that congestion will worsen. 

If motorcycle riders are allowed to pass still-standing vehicles, they won’t be around to create more traffic. Lanes of traffic could start moving again faster, not only allowing motorcycle riders to get home faster but also other road users too. 

Benefit #2: It's Safer at Avoiding Rear-End Collisions

Another benefit for motorcycle riders is that lane splitting reduces their risk of having rear-end collisions. Sitting in traffic can create a situation where the motorcycle rider is a sitting duck when it comes to accidents beyond their control. Motorcycles are often less visible to drivers and can easily become a victim to a distracted driver who crashes into the motorcycle without them having any space to avoid an accident. 

Argument #1: It Isn't Common Practice

Just because something isn’t common, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be allowed. But it does mean that most motorcycle riders do not have experience in lane splitting. Less experience could lead to more mistakes. And that is one of the golden rules of lane splitting. If you aren’t sure that you would be able to do it, then you probably shouldn’t try. 

The same goes for situations where you aren’t sure if the lane would be large enough to accommodate a vehicle and a motorcycle driving next to each other. Because it isn’t a common practice, lanes have not been designed in a way that they are large enough for these maneuvers. If there is any doubt about your motorcycle making it through, then it is best not to try. 

Argument #2: Hard to Determine At-Fault Party

Knowing who is at fault for a vehicle accident is essential as your car accident attorney would explain. The lawyer would be the person who helps you and answers all your questions after you were in a car accident. But they need to determine who was at fault to ensure that the insurance claims are paid. 

But when there are no set rules about lane splitting and whether or not it is legal, it is harder to determine who was at fault legally and who is liable. This has many states and insurance companies feeling like lane splitting is not a good idea. 

Is Lane Splitting Legal?

Currently, only California has passed bills to make lane splitting legal in the state. Many other states consider lane splitting to be a gray area that is neither legal nor illegal. It depends on the traffic officer who has stopped you. But even then, it is straightforward to make a case about lane splitting and whether you should be penalized for the practice. Your lawyer could help with this. 

Many states are looking at California laws before they make a firm decision about legalizing lane splitting. If motorcyclists in California are not sticking to the speed limit, or if they are irresponsible, this could mark the end for any chances of getting lane splitting legalized in any other state. Similarly, if motorcycle incidents and accidents increase this might also end the hope of legalizing lane splitting in other states. 

What Are Lane Splitting Laws?

There are a number of things to consider when it comes to lane splitting. One of these is the speed limit you are allowed to drive when passing other vehicles. In most cases, when traffic is moving more than 30 mph it is too fast for a motorcyclist to split the lane. At that speed, there is no time to react when something does go wrong. It is also important to note that the rule is generally that you are only allowed to drive 10 mph faster than the traffic that you are passing. 

Motorcyclists are also not allowed to push traffic in any direction with the use of lane splitting, since this can worsen traffic conditions and create a bottleneck effect. They also should not try fitting through narrow gaps or passing long lines of cars. 

Get Legal Advice on Lane Splitting as a Motorcyclist

As a motorcyclist, it is important to know the laws on lane splitting in your state. These rules often change and adapt, and a lawyer can help guide you to ensure your legal safety. Lane splitting is a controversial subject, but your attorney can help guide you through potential potholes. Contact us at Spence Law Firm today to find out about the services we offer and to get peace of mind on this tricky subject.

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