When motorcyclists lane split, some drivers get upset; others may think the biker has lost their mind. Knowing the state rules and regulations before hitting the road is crucial when riding a motorcycle. Lane-splitting riders get a lot of bad press, and lane-splitting is one of those controversial topics. Most motorcyclists are unsure about their rights pertaining to lane sharing, lane filtering, or lane splitting. All riders want to avoid a motorcycle accident as traffic slows in their lanes of traffic. Non-lane splitting riders are at a higher risk of being rear-ended in bumper-to-bumper traffic, according to many experts.
Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have put together this guide to help you navigate the lane-splitting laws across different states. Let’s take a look at what isn’t and what is considered lane splitting to get started.
What Is Lane Splitting?
When there is too much traffic on the road, motorcycle riders might feel tempted to ride your motorcycle between the marked traffic lanes in the same direction as other vehicles to avoid riding in slow traffic and get to their destination quickly. This is commonly referred to as lane splitting, which is much different than lane filtering. Motorcycle safety advocates say motorcycles riding abreast of cars with traffic flow, rather than being sandwiched in between them, is a great way to avoid getting crushed in rear-end collisions, as they switch lanes or approach a traffic signal in heavy traffic congestion.
Lane filtering is riding between rows of stopped traffic to get ahead to the front of the line without getting crushed between two vehicles. Although you may feel tempted to do it, it is essential to know your state rules as this practice is not legal in most states.
Very few lane-splitting legal states may allow lane splitting or some form of it, such as lane sharing or lane filtering between motor vehicles.
Which States Have Made Lane Splitting Legal for Motorcyclists?
Currently, only a few states in the United States have laws specifically addressing motorcycle lane splitting. It’s worth noting that while lane splitting, aka “lane filtering,” is not explicitly legal in other states, it is also not explicitly illegal, according to our best motorcycle safety consultant. The biggest issue is inattentive drivers who are not paying to attention to the motorcyclist weaving between traffic lanes. These distracted drivers need to look out for people riding motorcycles, but they don’t!
In these states, whether or not lane splitting is legal can be a bit of a gray area and may be up to the interpretation of law enforcement officers and judges. It’s important for motorcyclists to use caution and common sense when lane splitting in any state, as it can be dangerous if not done safely.
The following are some states that have made lane splitting legal or have some version of lane splitting:
Arizona – Lane Filtering Legal?
Arizona is the most recent state to legalize lane filtering, allowing motorcyclists to go past stopped vehicles in the same direction.
Lane filtering is only acceptable in Arizona under the following circumstances:
- The posted speed limit is 45 mph or less
- The motorcyclist lane filtering is traveling at 15 mph or less
- The vehicles are at a standstill
- The street or the road has at least two adjacent lanes of traffic that are traveling in the same direction
The lane filtering law in Arizona prevents riders from getting rear-ended or stuck between two vehicles and many motorists.
California was the very first and only state to legalize lane splitting in 2016. Previously, lane splitting was illegal in California, but after passing the “Assembly Bill-51 Vehicles: motorcycles: lane splitting,” lane splitting became legal. Under California lane splitting law, motorcyclists can lane split in stopped or slow-moving traffic in the same lane.
Although lane splitting is legal in California, it can be confusing for some motorcyclists and even dangerous to engage in splitting or lne filtering.
Here are some of the tips California Highway Patrol recommends following to prevent any accidents from happening during lane splitting:
- Assess the situation (width of the lane, size of surrounding vehicles, and weather) before lane splitting.
- Lane splitting when there is a higher speed difference between the motorcycle and the other vehicles in the lane can be dangerous.
- Avoid lane splitting at higher speeds, as it can be dangerous.
- Avoid lane splitting around large vehicles such as trucks, semi-trailers, big rigs, motorhomes, and other large vehicles.
- Riding on the shoulder does not fall under the definition of lane splitting and is illegal in California.
- Make sure you and your motorcycle are completely visible to other road users, which means you must avoid staying in blind spots.
- Maintain visibility by wearing brightly colored clothes and using headlights to inform drivers, even during the day.
Hawaii has some gorgeous landscapes making it one of the perfect destinations for riding a motorcycle. However, it also has narrow roads unsuitable for lane splitting. Although you cannot lane split, Hawaii legalized shoulder surfing in 2018.
In some regions of the state, motorcyclists can pass stopped traffic by using road shoulders. However, certain conditions apply to the law, including at least two lanes traveling in the same direction and a wide enough road shoulder to accommodate the motorcycle.
After the Montana Senate Bill 9, lane splitting became legal in some form in Montana in 2021. Under the Montana lane-splitting law, a motorcyclist can overtake stopped or moving traffic in the following circumstances:
- Motorcycle speed of 20 mph or less
- When the lanes are wide enough
- When the traffic and the conditions for lane splitting are favorable
- Motorcycle speed of 10mph of ambient traffic speed
If the above conditions are not met, it is against Montana law for motorcyclists to lane split.
After California legalized lane splitting, Utah followed soon after legalizing lane splitting in some form.
In 2019, Utah passed a bill that allowed lane filtering, and motorcycles in the state can only lane filter:
- Between stopped traffic
- When they’re riding no more than 15 mph
- When the road conditions are safe to lane filter
States Where There Is Ambiguity about Lane Splitting
Splitting lanes in Arkansas, Delaware, Washington, DC, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia is not legal, nor is it illegal, but if you do it, you might get a citation.
In the states not mentioned, lane splitting is completely illegal, and lane-splitting motorcyclists may end up in trouble with the law.
Is Lane Splitting Safe?
California is the only state that has made lane splitting explicitly legal, suggesting that lane splitting is a dangerous motorcycle activity. U.C. Berkeley carried out a study that assessed 6,000 California motorcycle accidents between 2012 and 2013 and found that nearly a fifth (17%) of all motorcycle accidents involved lane splitting, mostly during commute-time traffic.
Although lane splitting is legal in California, it is still dangerous and could lead to serious accidents. If you safely split lanes and suffer injuries due to the negligence of another motorist, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim. Even if you’re partially responsible for your injuries, under California’s comparative negligence rule, you may still be able to recover compensation.
Speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential to learn more about your rights following your lane-splitting accident.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law
If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident involving lane splitting, Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys are here to help you recover compensation. Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our legal experts to learn more about your legal options.