Is It Legal for Motorcycles to Split Lanes?

Motorcycles are a popular mode of transportation but come with an increased risk of accidental injuries. Most of this is due to the lack of protection cyclists have as compared to cars. However, there are some dangerous trends that are gaining popularity which increase the likelihood of injury. One of them is the controversial issue of splitting lanes.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is the act of riding a motorcycle or other bike between lanes. Because motorcycles are much smaller than cars and have an increased maneuverability, they can sneak into the small area between cars when there is slowed or stopped traffic. It allows the biker to continue riding rather than stopping. If they split lanes while traffic is completely stopped, it’s sometimes known as filtering.

Is It Legal?

It is illegal for motorcyclists to split lanes in all but one state: California. California is the only state that has made it officially legal for motorcyclists to use the tiny space in between lanes to filter through traffic. If you live in any other state, it’s illegal, and bikers are subject to a hefty fine if caught.

Why Is Lane Splitting Illegal?

The biggest reason why it is illegal is for safety reasons. Whether it’s safer for a motorcycle to follow in normal traffic or to utilize their ability to maneuver easily is still controversial. In slow traffic or even in stopped traffic, vehicle doors may open and cause injury. Vehicles still move in and out of lanes in slow traffic, and it’s often done very quickly. This isn’t a problem for other cars, but for motorcyclists, it could be fatal.

Also, it’s even more dangerous that trucks and trailers have a large blind spot and would not be able to see a motorcycle approaching. Stopping and resting the motorcycle at some locations next to the vehicle also fall in the blind spot area, and threatens the safety of anyone involved.

Liability and Legal Responsibility

Because it is illegal, the rider is usually responsible for any liability. If an accident occurs while someone involved is lane splitting, it will take a lot of convincing to argue that the crash wasn’t caused by the motorcyclist. But what if you live in California?

In California, there is a chance that the rider may not be held liable for the accident. This depends on if he or she can prove the following:

● The automobile driver was changing lanes at the time

● The automobile driver was weaving in and out of traffic

● The automobile driver was distracted (cell phone use, etc.).

● The automobile driver failed to use the turn signal or was drifting into other lanes

● The automobile driver was fatigued and should not have been driving

Different states have different regulations regarding motorcycles and what is considered safe riding. There are a number of things that can decide liability if you live in California, but if you live in another state, lane splitting is illegal. If you have been seriously injured and believe it was not your fault, a Memphis personal injury lawyer may be able to help you recover damages.

Wiseman BrayThanks to our friends and contributors from Wiseman Bray PLLC for their insight into motorcycle accident cases.