Lane splitting is the practice of riding between traffic lanes or vehicles which are going in the same direction. When traffic is dense, the rider squeezes between lanes, effectively “splitting” the lane with a car or truck driver. Many motorists believe that riding between lanes while traffic is moving quickly can be dangerous, as it involves riding in blind spots where other cars may not be expecting to see you.
When traffic is dense and slow-moving, motorcycle accidents and fatalities involving lane splitting are significantly reduced. The motorcyclist will be more visible to motorists in these circumstances and be able to see and react to oncoming traffic patterns.
Lane splitting laws vary greatly from state to state. In California, lane splitting has been legal since 2016, but some restrictions exist. In California, motorcycles cannot exceed ten mph above the speed of surrounding traffic when lane splitting. In California, lane splitting is prohibited near freeway exits and onramps.
Lane splitting is illegal in Florida. Suppose a motorcycle is involved in an accident while lane splitting. They may receive a citation or be held liable. Florida also prohibits lane filtering. The act of lane splitting is illegal in New Mexico, and motorcyclists who do it can be charged with reckless driving.
Many states do not mention lane splitting by name in their vehicle codes, but they may prohibit similar practices. Here are some examples of similar practices:
- Lane Filtering: Filtering is lane splitting when the surrounding vehicles on the road have either stopped moving completely or are moving slowly, i.e., at a red light or during a traffic jam;
- Stripe Riding; Stripe riding is just another name for lane splitting;
- Lane Sharing: Lane sharing is a related concept. In lane sharing, two motorized vehicles, usually motorcycles or motorized bikes, agree to ride side-by-side or staggered in the same lane.
Motorcycles and bicycles use lane splitting as a road maneuver. Motorcyclists and cyclists ride between lanes of traffic. The rider usually cuts through traffic by passing between slower cars and avoids congestion.
This type of riding can be dangerous for the lane splitter and the cars if it is done while traffic is moving quickly or unsafely, as riding in between lanes can place the motorcycle rider or cyclist in a blind spot that may lead to an accident. However, there are studies indicating this is a safer method of traveling through slower, more congested areas as it increases the rider’s visibility.
Other names for lane splitting include:
- Forward filtering
- Lane sharing
What Are the Laws on Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is not expressly prohibited in California’s vehicle code. However, it is also not expressly permitted. The California Highway Patrol stated in 2012 that lane splitting is allowed, but only if done safely and prudently. The lane splitter can still be cited if they ride between lanes unsafely, even though lane splitting is not illegal in California.
Lane splitting is prohibited in some states, such as Colorado and Nebraska. New Mexico, for example, does not expressly prohibit lane splitting but uses other laws to make it illegal.
Therefore, lane splitting is strongly discouraged for those who are located outside of California.
What If I’ve Been Injured While Lane Splitting?
You may have difficulty recovering damages if you are injured while lane splitting on a bicycle or motorcycle. Insurance companies and courts often assume that cyclists who get into lane-splitting accidents aren’t riding properly.
If you can prove the following, you may be able to recover damages for lane splitting injuries:
- You were following traffic laws in your state
- The other driver was driving under conditions of severe negligence, or
- You were prompted to split lanes under emergency conditions (i.e., to avoid an accident, etc.)
It can be difficult to prove fault in a motorcycle accident. Expert witnesses can testify about speed, road conditions, traffic, and other factors. Always be sure to follow all motorcycle and state helmet laws.
Do I Have to Wear a Helmet When I Ride?
Whether wearing a helmet is mandatory depends on state laws. Dozens of states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear motorcycle helmets when riding. Depending on the rider’s age, some states require only some motorcyclists to wear helmets. Helmets are required in some states for motorcycle drivers and their passengers.
A person should comply with the law, even for “weekend” or recreational rides, if their state requires it. If they do not follow state laws, it could drastically reduce their ability to recover damages in the event of a motorcycle accident. Even if a person’s state does not require helmets, it is a good idea to use one for safety.
How Do I Know If My Helmet Is Acceptable Under the Law of a Given State?
Motorcycle helmets should be labeled “DOT” when the United States Department of Transportation endorses them. Helmets that meet these standards are considered safe by the federal government.
Any state should accept a DOT-approved helmet. Motorcycle helmets, or street helmets, are also regulated by the Snell Memorial Foundation. M2015 is the Snell standard for
What if I’ve Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident?
Suppose a person is involved in a motorcycle accident or crash. In that case, they should report the incident to the police, even if the accident happened due to their own trick riding or other negligent acts. The police would investigate the accident and then make a report. Under certain circumstances and with certain limitations, a police report can be used in court as evidence at trial if a civil lawsuit arises from the accident.
In addition, injured individuals should seek medical attention immediately, as any delay could complicate their injuries and cause problems in any resulting lawsuit. If a person fails to seek treatment for injuries promptly, it can lead to claims that the person did not mitigate their damages.
If a motorcycle rider has been injured in an accident that was the fault of another driver and not their own, they may have to file a civil lawsuit for negligence. It would be necessary for the motorcyclist to prove that the other driver was negligent and that this negligence caused the accident and any injury or damage to the motorcyclist. A motorcyclist would also have to prove that they suffered economic losses.
Alternatively, suppose the motorcyclist’s negligence caused the accident. In that case, they can expect to be sued by the other driver, who will want to recover damages for their injuries and property damage, which would probably include damage to their motorcycle.
Damages in a negligence lawsuit should compensate the non-negligent party for the following:
- The costs of medical treatment for their injuries as follows;
- The cost of repairing or replacing their motor vehicle;
- Any wages or salary lost because of the accident.
If the non-negligent party’s injuries require continuing care after a trial, then the negligent party would have to compensate the non-negligent party for future care and future lost wages. The negligent party will have to compensate the non-negligent party if they suffer a permanent loss of earning capacity or a permanent disability.
If the negligent party causes the death of another driver or passenger, then their close relatives would file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their losses.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Lane Splitting Injury Laws?
The laws on lane splitting and other related practices can often be very strict. It’s in your best interests to contact an experienced car accident lawyer if you have any questions about lane splitting laws or if you’ve been involved in a lane splitting accident. If necessary, your lawyer can help represent you in court, advising you on the laws in your state.