There are so many laws that motorists need to abide by when on the road, many of which vary from state to state, which can cause some confusion. One of the many things that causes a lot of debate is lane splitting.
Whether lane splitting is legal or illegal is often the subject of discussion as in some states it is legal, and in others, it is not.
So, what exactly is lane splitting, and where is it legal? Find out here.
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What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist passes one or more vehicles between two lanes, often where the road line is painted. Most of the time, the motorcyclist will lane split between two or more lanes to avoid any heavy traffic.
Some research suggests that lane splitting is safer for motorcyclists than riding normally in a lane when there is particularly heavy traffic, as motorcyclists can be more prone to being hit by cars from behind.
Lane splitting is also called stripe-riding or whitelining, and allows riders to save time by passing congested traffic, but can also be safer than stopping and starting behind larger stationary vehicles.
In many states, lane splitting is described as passing a vehicle in the same lane and riding between lanes of traffic or rows of vehicles. However, in many states, lane splitting is illegal.
Is Lane Splitting Legal?
Lane splitting is a controversial subject in the United States, as there is a lot of debate as to whether it is legal or not. For many years it has been unclear whether lane splitting is legal or illegal as there have not actually been laws and legislature in place for this kind of driving. Lane splitting was first legally defined in California by a bill signed into law in 2016.
The new law worked to establish a definition of lane splitting but was ambiguous as to whether it was legal or not. Since then, the California Highway Patrol released new lane splitting tips in 2018. Utah has also passed legislation to enable lane filtering of traffic at intersections.
Nowadays, there are bills in many locations across the states where lane splitting has been introduced in state legislatures, but California was still the first. Whilst some states now permit lane splitting, it is still illegal in the vast majority of states, but that could be set to change as new bills and laws are put in place to keep us safe on the road.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?
Lane splitting is illegal in Texas as there is no law that states whether motorcyclists can move between vehicles. In Texas, the Transportation Code States that all road users need to remain within a lane, which essentially means that lane splitting is not permitted. This means that you could be pulled over for lane splitting, or find yourself in great legal trouble if you lane split and cause an accident or injury.
You can see here in ‘Sec. 545.060: DRIVING ON ROADWAY LANED FOR TRAFFIC. (a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic:(1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.’
If you do lane split in Texas, then you could face a penalty if you are pulled over. The most common penalty would be a fine of about $175, as motorcyclists are categorized in the same way as cars in Texas, and the same safety rules and regulations apply on the road.
That being said, currently, there are advocates for the practice of lane splitting and there is a lot of hope that changes will be made to the legislation in the years to come.
Where Is Lane Splitting Legal?
At the moment, the only US state that has completely legalized lane splitting is California, as this state explicitly allows lane splitting. That being said, there are several other states considering adopting similar legislation to allow lane splitting and make it legal. These states are Texas, Oregon, Maryland, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have some more questions and queries regarding lane splitting, then check out our frequently asked questions section.
What’s the Difference Between Lane Splitting and Lane Filtering?
Lane splitting is typically when a bicycle or motorcycle splits between lanes or rows of slow moving traffic or stopped traffic moving in the same direction. On the other hand, filtering describes moving through traffic that is on stop or at a red traffic light.
Why Is Lane Splitting Illegal?
Lane splitting is illegal in so many states as it is deemed unsafe for most motorists, drivers and motorcyclists. The lane splitting offence is in place as a means of deterring motorcyclists from moving between traffic at unsafe speeds and possibly causing an accident or an incident.
In many states, motorists are only able to stay within their lane, and cannot weave in and out of traffic as this could cause collisions.
What are the Rules for Lane Splitting?
In the states where lane splitting is legal, intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist from lane splitting is illegal, as it can cause serious harm or injury. When lane splitting is legal, a motorcyclist is permitted to filter between lanes and between vehicles.
However, the laws are different in each state, so you need to know whether lane splitting is legal in your specific state or location.
To summarise, lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides between lanes or in between rows of traffic moving in the same direction. This is often done to save time waiting in traffic, or to avoid being rear-ended by other vehicles accidentally.
In recent years, lane splitting has been legalized in California, with other states looking into following suit, but currently, California is the only state that permits lane splitting.