Is it legal for motorcycles to split lanes? The legality of lane splitting has long been a cause for debate in the United States. Many consider the act of riding a motorcycle between lanes in standstill traffic dangerous. In fact, in most states, lane splitting is illegal. It’s up to all motorists to obey the law and the rules of the road, regardless of personal opinions or views on the matter.
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist passes one or more vehicles in the area between two lanes, often the area of the road where the road line is painted. It is also known as white lining to seasoned motorcyclists. Typically, motorcyclists will use white lining to avoid stopping in heavy traffic.
A study by the University of California Berkeley has found that lane splitting may be safer for motorcyclists than traditionally riding in a lane during heavy traffic periods. However, there are two other types of traffic maneuvers motorcyclists do that are similar to lane splitting.
- Lane splitting (white lining) – a motorcyclist weaving between moving traffic at a higher speed
- Lane filtering – a motorcyclist weaving between slower-moving traffic or traffic that is stationary
- Lane sharing – when two or more motorcyclists are sharing the same lane either side-by-side or staggered
The study found that motorcyclists are more likely to be hit from behind by cars. Lane splitting eliminates that possibility for motorcyclists who will pass between lanes because no cars can hit them from behind. Additionally, most occur at speeds slower than 50 mph, and at these speeds, injuries are usually less severe overall.
Is It Legal For Motorcycles To Split Lanes?
Lane splitting is a riding technique where a motorcyclist rides between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. This technique is officially recognized as legal only in the state of California.
According to California’s AB-51, lane splitting is defined as “a motorcycle ridden between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
Can Motorcycles Split Lane?
Motorcyclists and cyclists are becoming increasingly prevalent on American highways. Nonetheless, they might frequently feel like the “small black of rice” among the thousands of automobiles that move on the highways regularly.
As a result, many motorists regard them as a nuisance, if not an adversary, especially when they violate traffic laws. Lane splitting, or riding a motorbike between two lanes of traffic, is a particularly contentious problem.
One state in the United States has expressly permitted lane splitting in California. Yet, there are numerous states where the legality of lane splitting has yet to be officially defined. Therefore, we combed through the legislation for each state and created the table below to assist you in determining the legality of lane splitting in your state.
It’s worth emphasizing that even in places where lane splitting isn’t technically prohibited, it’s up to the Highway Patrol to judge if your behavior is dangerous. This implies you might still obtain a lane-splitting ticket even though your state has no statute against it.
Regarding lane splitting, motorcycle riders must know their state’s rules and regulations. Furthermore, when lane splitting, adopting safe and responsible practices such as wearing adequate safety gear, keeping a safe speed and distance from other cars, and being aware of any dangers on the highway is critical.
Where is Lane Splitting Legal in the U.S.?
Over the years, several bills have been passed in different states to legalize lane splitting, and the following states have legalized the practice. So, for motorcyclists wondering “Where is lane splitting legal?”, here are the states where lane splitting is legal:
- California – California was one of the first states to embrace lane-splitting even before it was legalized; motorists and motorcyclists respected the practice for years. In 2016, it was declared legal across the state. California is the only state in America to make white lining legal officially. Assembly Bill No. 51.
- Arizona – Lawmakers in Arizona first attempted to legalize lane splitting with Senate Bill 1007, but it failed to pass. At the beginning of 2020, however, Representative Noel Campbell introduced House Bill 2285 which aims to restart talks about legalizing white lining in Arizona. Discussions are still underway, but people expect this motion to pass this time. AZ SB1007 | 2020 | Fifty-fourth Legislature 2nd Regular.
- Hawaii – Though lane splitting is technically not legal because Hawaii’s roads may be too narrow, the state has allowed shoulder surfing for motorcyclists on the island when there is traffic congestion.
- Connecticut – Senate Bill 629 was recently introduced in Connecticut, and lawmakers are currently discussing legalizing lane splitting and filtering. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Transportation, but there hasn’t been any news since proposed. S.B. No. 629. Session Year 2019.
- Utah – In March 2019, Utah followed California’s example by becoming the second state to legalize filtering formally. Although it’s not as permissive as white lining, lane filtering can help motorcyclists avoid being tailgated when on the road. Utah lane filtering guidelines.
- Oregon – House Bill 2314, a proposition to make lane splitting legal, has been introduced to the Speaker’s desk and is currently in discussion. If the bill passes, motorcyclists will be allowed to travel between cars on roadways with speed limits of 50 mph or more and traffic moving at 10 mph or slower.
- Washington – In 2015, Washington introduced a bill to legalize lane splitting, which did not pass. Then, four years later, lawmakers reintroduced Senate Bill 5254, which was left hanging for discussion. On January 13, 2020, the same Senate Bill was reintroduced and is still pending approval.
- Virginia – At the beginning of the year, Representative Tony Wilt introduced House Bill 1236 to amend the Code of Virginia, this allowing land splitting in the state. This bill has already been referred to the Committee on Transportation and awaiting approval.
If you happen to live in a state where lane splitting bills are still pending approval, contact your legislator to support legalization. And if you are involved in an accident while lane splitting, be sure to contact a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Benefits And Risks Of Motorcycle Lane-splitting
While some say that lane-splitting may be a safe and effective approach to decrease traffic congestion and enhance traffic flow, others see it as a risky and irresponsible activity that endangers motorcyclists and other vehicles.
On the one hand, lane-splitting supporters say it is a safer alternative for motorcyclists than sitting in slow-moving or halted traffic because motorcyclists can travel between lanes and are less likely to be rear-ended by other cars, which is a major cause of motorcycle accidents.
Moreover, when done correctly and responsibly, lane splitting may assist in alleviating traffic congestion and improve overall traffic flow, benefiting all cars on the road.
On the other hand, opponents of lane splitting believe that it is a risky activity that endangers both motorcyclists and other drivers. This is because lane splitting necessitates a high level of skill and concentration from the motorcycle rider, who must navigate between lanes of traffic while keeping an eye out for other drivers who may be unaware of their presence.
Also, other drivers may feel upset or furious with lane-splitting motorcyclists, perhaps leading to road rage incidents or other risky actions.
Generally, the issue of whether lane splitting is safe or harmful is hotly debated. While some studies imply that it is a safe and successful approach to alleviating traffic congestion and enhancing traffic flow, others claim it is a harmful and dangerous practice.
Ultimately, whether or not to lane split is a decision that each biker should take depending on their skill level and comfort level with the practice. If you choose to lane split, it’s critical to use safe and responsible methods, such as wearing adequate safety equipment, keeping a safe speed and distance from other cars, and being aware of any hazards on the road.
What states is lane splitting on a motorcycle legal?
California is the only state where lane splitting is legal. Experts in this state do recommend that motorcyclists only go ten miles per hour above the speed of the surrounding traffic and that they avoid lane splitting over speeds of 30 miles per hour. You also can’t lane split near freeway exits or ramps.
What is the California law for motorcycles splitting lanes?
The CHP’s guidelines state that motorcyclists should only split the lane when traffic flows at 40 MPH or less. Also, they should not travel more than 10 MPH over surrounding traffic. However, law enforcement has considerable discretion in how it enforces the law.
What is the difference between lane filtering and splitting?
“Lane splitting” refers to the practice of riding a motorcycle between clearly marked lanes for traffic traveling in the same direction. “Filtering”refers to the practice of riding a motorcycle between stopped motor vehicles to the front of the pack, typically at a signalized intersection.
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