Why States Should or Should Not Legalize Lane Splitting

Posted on July 22nd, 2019
By Steven Gursten
Why States Should or Should Not Legalize Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, also called lane sharing or white lining, is when a motorcyclist maneuvers their bike between lanes or rows of unmoving or barely moving vehicles that are heading the same way. While it’s a common practice in many states, only California has made this practice legal.

Several other states have proposed legislation to make it legal, but so far only California has actually made it legal. Many states don’t recognize lane splitting as a legal move, but also don’t actually prohibit it. This practice is widespread and perfectly legal in many European and Asian countries.

Why Motorcyclists Advocate Lane Splitting

Those that advocate lane splitting do so for several reasons. While it’s true that it can help motorcyclists avoid sitting in immovable traffic for a long period of time, there are other reasons for allowing lane splitting that can actually help keep motorcyclists safe.

Benefits of lane splitting include:

  • Motorcyclists have a lower risk of being hit from behind by drivers who are speeding or agitated by traffic jams.
  • It can reduce the number of vehicles tied up in a traffic jam, reducing the amount of time all drivers spend in traffic.
  • It can help prevent motorcycles from overheating while stuck in traffic.
  • Car drivers, particularly if lane splitting is not legal in their home state, don’t expect vehicles from the rear when stalled in traffic and may not look in mirrors before opening doors or steering out of the lane to get a better look at road conditions ahead.

Possible Dangers of Lane Splitting

Drivers of cars and trucks don’t always agree that lane splitting is a safe practice or that it benefits anyone other than motorcyclists. Some of the arguments against lane splitting include:

  • Lane splitting makes changing lanes more difficult for cars and trucks.
  • Motorcyclists may end up in another vehicle’s blind spot.
  • The practice reduces the amount of room other drivers have, which means a mistake on the part of a car or truck driver is likely to cause an accident.
  • It can cause confusion at intersections, making it unclear which vehicle has the right of way.

Staying Safe While Lane Splitting

Researchers at UC Berkley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center determined that lane splitting is usually safe as long as it’s done under certain conditions. These conditions include only participating in the practice when traffic is moving 50 mph or less, and bikers should not exceed the speed of other cars or trucks by more than 15 mph.

It’s safest to only split lanes in the outer lanes of traffic and to avoid splitting near off-ramps or freeway exits where drivers aren’t likely to expect to be sharing a lane. Motorcyclists need to pay attention to conditions such as lighting, weather and road conditions and should wear bright colors whenever possible. They should also avoid splitting lanes after dark.

Taking Responsibility for Safe Lane Splitting

Both motorcyclists and drivers of other vehicles need to drive responsibly. Motorcyclists need to take the responsibility not to attempt to lane split if they aren’t alert, if the road is curvy or unfamiliar, or if there’s any question that they don’t fit in a lane.

All drivers need to pay attention to conditions around them, and as long as drivers of any type of vehicle remain alert and respectful of other drivers, lane splitting can be a safe practice. Every driver is responsible and must do whatever they can to prevent collisions.

Get Legal Advice for Lane Splitting Accidents

If you are injured because of someone else’s negligence, whether you were operating a motorcycle or another type of vehicle during a lane splitting accident, an expert personal injury lawyer can advise you on how lane splitting laws apply to you. Contact Taos Injury Lawyers by filling out our contact form. We’ll get in touch with you soon to set up a consultation.

Contact a Taos Lawyer
Find one of the most highly-regarded injury lawyers in your state.
Need to find something?