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Is Lane Splitting Legal or Illegal?
Lane splitting is a fairly common practice among motorcyclists. If you're not familiar with the term, lane splitting is when a motorcyclist moves between two lanes of traffic heading in the same direction, typically riding along the dashed lines separating the lanes. With how common this is among motorcyclists, you might assume that it's perfectly legal—however, that most likely isn't true in your state. Keep reading to learn more about lane splitting, whether or not it's safe, and what states have laws regarding this practice.
Is It Safe?
Many motorcyclists argue that lane splitting is not only faster and helps to decrease traffic on roads, but that it can be safer for them as well. Lane splitting, they claim, makes it less likely that they'll be rear-ended by another vehicle. Of course, it's not difficult to see the reasoning behind this claim; distracted drivers frequently rear-end the vehicles in front of them when traffic abruptly slows or comes to a halt. And, even at low speeds, being rear-ended can lead to serious injuries or even death for a motorcyclist.
And, in fact, some research has found these claims to be true. According to a study conducted by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California Berkeley, "Lane-splitting riders were significantly less likely to be rear-ended than other non-lane-splitting riders."
Is It Legal?
So, while there is some evidence to suggest that lane splitting is safer for motorcyclists, that doesn't necessarily mean it's legal. In fact, California is the only state in the country where lane splitting is explicitly legal. Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington, DC, are all currently considering legislation related to this practice, and Utah has a modified law that only allows motorcyclists to split lanes when traffic is stopped.
The remaining states either explicitly prohibit lane splitting, or they simply don't have a law specifying the legality of the practice either way. However, in the states that don't have explicit laws for lane splitting, the assumption should be that the same laws apply to motorcycles that apply to vehicles, and you should avoid lane splitting, as you may still be able to receive a citation for reckless driving for doing so.
An Accident While Lane Splitting
If you were involved in an accident while lane splitting, your ability to receive compensation for the accident will likely be reduced because most courts will see you as having some fault in the accident. However, this doesn't mean it's entirely impossible to receive compensation. In most states, it's possible to receive damages for an accident if your responsibility is less than or equal to 50%. So, even if you were lane splitting, if the other driver was engaging in reckless or irresponsible behavior behind the wheel, they could still be liable for damages to you.
Because of the complexity of proving liability in lane-splitting accidents, it's extremely important that you work with a qualified attorney. Please reach out to George Stein Steelhorse Law to learn more about the laws behind lane splitting and how it may impact your motorcycle accident case. Call now to schedule a consultation.