Lane splitting is a common practice among motorcyclists, but is it safe? It’s a controversial topic, with most states taking a different approach to its legality.
Let’s discuss what lane splitting is, where it’s legal, the risks of doing it, and what to do if you find yourself involved in a motorcycle accident that’s a result of lane splitting.
Table of Contents
What Is Lane Splitting?
Definition of Lane Splitting
Almost all highways and sidestreets have white lines that are used as a boundary to signify the division between multiple lanes of traffic. Lane-splitting occurs when motorcyclists drive between the traffic lanes on these lines to pass slower cars going the same way as them.
Common Scenarios of Lane Splitting
Lane splitting is convenient during certain scenarios for motorcyclists, like:
- Weaving through congested traffic to get to the destination more quickly
- Moving to the front of an intersection at a red light
- On both city streets and highways to move faster during traffic jams
The Legality of Lane Splitting
Where is Lane Splitting Legal?
California is the only state to officially make lane splitting fully legal. They allow motorcyclists to ride between lanes of traffic with safety guidelines, recommending that lane splitting is not practiced when traffic is moving faster than 30 miles per hour.
Other states have gray areas with lane splitting, like:
The following states don’t have rules governing lane splitting:
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
In the rest of the states, lane splitting is marked as illegal.
Regulations and Guidelines
In the states with gray areas, lane splitting is permitted only under very specific circumstances.
- You can only ride between lanes of traffic stopped at a light
- The speed limit on the road has to be less than 45 miles per hour
- You can’t ride faster than 15 miles per hour
- You have to ride in the middle of the lanes, not on the shoulder or median
- You have to be passing a car stopped in the same lane
- The street has to have at least two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction
- You can’t ride faster than 20 miles per hour while lane splitting
- You have to stay within ten miles per hour of the cars around you
- The lanes need to be wide enough for you to safely lane split
- Traffic and road conditions must be safe enough to justify it
- The speed limit has to be 45 miles per hour or less
- The road must have at least two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction
- You can’t ride faster than 15 miles per hour while lane splitting
- You must be moving around traffic that’s stopped
- You have to stay between marked lanes, not on a shoulder or bike lane
- Only allows shoulder surfing
- You can ride on the shoulder of the road to pass stopped vehicles
- The road must have two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction
Lane Splitting and Its Connection to Motorcycle Accidents
The Risks of Lane Splitting
Lane splitting may be convenient for motorcyclists, but it can also be risky. Riding between lanes puts the motorcyclists much closer to other vehicles than they would be otherwise, giving them less space to maneuver and less time to react. Additionally, when a motorcyclist is riding between lanes, they are less visible to other drivers.
Statistics on Motorcycle Accidents Involving Lane Splitting
According to a study by the American Motorcyclist Association, it was reported that 59.2% of all comprehensive motorcycle accidents were caused by motorcyclists driving in moderate to severe traffic when lane splitting is more likely to occur.
Another study conducted by the University of California Berkeley found that lane-splitting helped motorcyclists avoid being stuck between multiple motor vehicles during traffic, which prevented minor and severe contact accidents. It also found that of the 997 traffic collisions, the majority were caused by motorcyclists exceeding the speed limit while lane-splitting.
Safety Precautions for Motorcyclists
Tips for Safe Lane Splitting
If you do decide to lane split in a state where it’s allowed, be sure to do it safely by following these tips:
- Make sure you’re riding at a safe, low speed
- Be aware of the blind spots of motor vehicles around you and avoid them
- Always use your signals effectively
Protective Gear and Its Importance
To stay safe while lane splitting, it’s also essential to have the right equipment. Most importantly, it’s vital to wear a helmet while your motorcycle is in motion. Your helmet must meet the safety requirements created by the U.S. Department of Transportation and it is recommended to purchase helmets that are labeled USDOT-approved. Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and reduce the risk of death by 42%.
Other protective gear that’s recommended are:
- Eye protection
- Long pants
- Ankle footwear with nonslip soles
Legal Recourse After a Motorcycle Accident Involving Lane Splitting
Determining fault in a motorcycle accident involving lane splitting relies very heavily on the laws of the state about whether lane splitting is legal or not. Motorcyclists must follow the laws and guidelines of the state that they’re in. If they don’t, they may be found at fault. The determination of fault also involves the evaluation of the actions taken by both parties.
Steps to Take After an Accident
Seek Medical Attention
If you’ve been injured severely, call the emergency services immediately.
If you’ve suffered a less urgent injury, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. That way, you can receive an official diagnosis and receive documentation of your injuries.
Document the Accident Scene
When safe, start documenting and gathering evidence of the scene. This includes getting contact information from all involved parties and witnesses, as well as photos or videos from the crash scene.
Report the Accident to Authorities
Always call the police after an accident. They will be able to ensure that all necessary emergency services have been employed and create an official report that’s essential to a legal case.
Consult With a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney can review the details of your accident and build a case for you. They will understand all of the ins and outs of the process and use their expertise to help you receive maximum compensation.
Talk to the Experts at Naqvi Injury Law
If you were involved in a motorcycle accident involving lane splitting, contact our reliable team at Naqvi Injury Law right away. They will assist you in understanding the laws surrounding these types of accidents and offer expertise in proving the fault of the other party. You can trust that they will put you in the best position to recover maximum compensation.
Naqvi Injury Law houses the “top one percent” of attorneys recognized by The National Association of Distinguished Council. You can rest easy knowing that our knowledgeable attorneys are completely dedicated to providing you with the support you need to receive the results you deserve. Call or Schedule a Free Consultation today!