Being able to ride in tight, narrow areas is one of the perks of riding a motorcycle compared to a passenger vehicle. If you’re a motorcyclist, you probably know about the practice of lane splitting, or riding your bike in between lanes. However, you may be wondering: how dangerous is lane splitting for motorcyclists?
Read on to learn what you need to know about motorcycle lane splitting.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is the practice of riding your motorcycle between two lanes of traffic, ignoring the marked lanes. For example, let’s say two adjacent lanes of traffic are moving slowly during a city’s rush hour. Because motorcycles are skinnier than passenger vehicles, motorcyclists could ride between the two lanes to get to their destinations faster.
Some motorcyclists confuse lane splitting with lane filtering or lane sharing. Here’s a quick definition of each practice:
- Lane splitting: Riding between lanes of moving traffic at a higher speed than other drivers
- Lane filtering: Weaving between slower-moving or stationary traffic
- Lane sharing: Sharing the same lane with another motorcyclist
The Hazards of Lane Splitting
While lane splitting offers some benefits in dense, slow traffic, it also presents several hazards that could put you at risk of an accident. A few significant dangers of lane splitting include:
As a motorcyclist, you should try to keep your movements on the road as predictable as possible. When you make unpredictable movements, other drivers will not be able to anticipate your actions, sometimes leading them to overlook you when making their own navigation decisions.
Lane splitting is especially dangerous in traffic situations where drivers quickly change lanes. For example, in slow-moving traffic, drivers are apt to change lanes frequently to remain in the fastest-moving lane. If you are riding between the lanes, the driver may not see you as they transition to the adjacent lane, causing you to strike the vehicle.
Drivers should generally stay in the middle of their lanes while driving, but it’s easy to drift to one edge without realizing it. While you may initially have enough space to navigate between lanes, if the drivers on either side of you begin to drift toward the white line, you could run out of room to steer your vehicle, leading you to sideswipe one of the cars or be sideswiped by a car.
The Potential Benefits of Lane Splitting
Recent research has suggested that lane splitting may offer some safety benefits for motorcyclists in specific scenarios. Learning about these potential benefits can help you make a more informed decision about lane splitting.
For example, some evidence suggests that lane splitting between slow-moving or stopped cars could result in fewer crashes than remaining in a slow-moving lane.
Rear-end accidents are common in slow or stopped traffic, and unfortunately, these crashes can be severe for motorcyclists. Instead, safely riding between slow-moving lanes at a higher speed could make motorcyclists even more visible to other drivers and reduce their risks of rear-end crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to conduct more research to examine the safety of this practice.
Is Lane Splitting Illegal In Your State?
Lane splitting is not legal in every state within the U.S. Some states explicitly forbid lane splitting, while others do not address the practice in their legislation.
As of 2022, lane splitting is only legal in three states:
If you do not live in one of these states, you should check your state’s legislation to review any laws regarding lane splitting practices.
While lane splitting may have some advantages for motorcyclists, it can also present serious risks. For more information about lane splitting laws, contact our Law Tigers team today at 1-888-863-7216.