Lane splitting is common among motorcyclists and bicyclists. Currently, it’s only explicitly permitted in a few states, and specifics vary among areas allowing the practice.
Although lane splitting may reduce traffic congestion and improve rider safety, it may also increase the likelihood of an automobile accident. Motorcycle drivers driving at high speeds while splitting lanes may also lose control of their motorcycles and crash. It’s also dangerous for motorcyclists to maneuver around bigger vehicles due to blind spots. These are a few of the reasons US states are divided on the issue of lane splitting.
Knowing the different state laws on lane-splitting can help motorists and pedestrians anticipate what will happen on the road. This would significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents and avoid the issuance of penalties by law enforcement authorities.
Are you wondering about the different lane-splitting laws across the country? This guide will give you insights into this issue and explain how it can affect your compensation claim..
What is lane splitting?
Lane splitting, or “white lining,” is where a bicycle or motorcycle rider travels between two traffic lanes or vehicle rows. This often happens in areas with white traffic lines painted on the road. It can also occur on any road, whether undivided rural roadways or highways. Bikers and motorcyclists often split lanes when traffic is at a standstill or moving slowly.
People confuse lane splitting with other practices like lane filtering, lane sharing, and shoulder surfing. However, these are not the same.
Lane filtering is when a rider moves between slow-moving or stopped traffic. Lane sharing is when two or more bike or motorcycle riders use the same lane in close formation or beside each other. Shoulder surfing is driving your vehicle on the shoulder of the road.
All these behaviors are possible due to the size of the driver’s vehicle in relation to other cars on the road. These depart from the norm, where drivers remain in their rightful lanes.
What states allow lane splitting or lane filtering?
Currently, California is the only US state that unconditionally allows lane-splitting. Some states may not allow lane splitting but permit similar acts like lane filtering. For example, Utah, Montana, and Arizona allow lane filtering in several instances. Hawaii, on the other hand, allows shoulder surfing.
California is the first state to allow motorcycle lane splitting under Assembly Bill No. 51. The law passed on August 19, 2016, becoming effective on January 1, 2017. It added the definition of lane-splitting to the California Vehicle Code.
It allows the two-wheeled motorcycle to run between rows of moving or stopped vehicles within the same lane. The bill also granted the Department of the California Highway Patrol power to draft and implement related guidelines to keep passengers, drivers, and motorcyclists safe.
Here are some motorcycle driving tips from the California Highway Patrol:
- To stay safe while lane splitting, consider the entire environment, including lane width, vehicle size, road and weather conditions, and lighting.
- Remember that the risk of accidents increases with higher speed differentials and overall speed.
- It’s better to split between the leftmost lanes than between other traffic lanes.
- Avoid splitting lanes next to large vehicles such as rigs, trucks, buses, or RVs.
- Riding on the shoulder is illegal and not a form of lane splitting.
- Be visible to other drivers by avoiding blind spots and not lingering between cars.
- Wear brightly colored or reflective gear and use high beams to increase visibility.
California law permits motorcycles to travel between lanes at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour (mph). The surrounding traffic must be moving at 30 mph or slower.
Next to California is Utah, which allowed lane filtering by passing and approving House Bill 149 Traffic Code Amendments. Since May 14, 2019, motorcycles can lane filter in the following circumstances:
- In areas where the road speed limit is 45mph or lower but never in freeways
- Roads should have at least two adjacent lanes in the same travel direction
- Motorcycles can only lane filter if the vehicles are at a stop
- Driving speed while filtering must not exceed 15 mph
- Only allowed when safe
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 9, also known as An Act Providing for Motorcycle Lane Filtering, into state law on March 3, 2021.
The new law allows riders of two-wheeled motorcycles to filter between lanes on roads that are wide enough for safe passing. However, the lane-filtering motorcycle should not exceed 20 mph when overtaking these stopped or slowed vehicles.
Lane filtering refers to passing other vehicles that are either stopped or traveling at ten mph or slower in the same direction and traffic lane. Lane filtering became legal in Montana on October 1, 2021.
Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1273 into state law on March 24, 2022. This legalized lane filtering for two-wheeled vehicles under certain conditions. The bipartisan bill passed the state House and Senate chambers before it landed on the governor’s desk for signing.
Senator Tyler Pace sponsored the bill, emphasizing that lane filtering and splitting are distinct concepts. The new law permits only low-speed lane filtering in specific situations, as specified in the bill. The legislation was modeled after a similar lane filtering initiative that became law in Utah in 2019.
The new law permits riders to travel at speeds no greater than 15 mph between lanes, provided other vehicles are stationary. This practice is only allowed on roads with 45 mph or lower speed limits. However, it doesn’t allow riders to pass on the median or shoulder.
After debating whether to allow lane filtering for riders, Hawaii’s government ultimately decided against it. Lane splitting has been illegal in Hawaii. Now, riders can “shoulder-surf” instead of lane filtering.
Hawaii’s narrow lanes made lane splitting and filtering concerning. Although the motion to allow shoulder surfing was eventually approved, Governor David Ige initially opposed the idea. He argued that the shoulder lane should be reserved for emergency services and stopped vehicles. He also added that allowing motorcyclists to “shoulder-surf” would increase the risk of accidents.
Despite the governor’s intent to veto the motion, it was passed by default on July 12, 2018. This new law, House Bill 2589, permitted riders to use the shoulder on roads with at least two lanes in each direction. The road should have a wide enough shoulder lane for a vehicle to pass through safely.
Which states have no lane-splitting laws?
Lane splitting is not explicitly illegal in 11 states because they don’t have laws prohibiting the practice. However, riders can still be cited for driving recklessly or changing lanes improperly, especially if they’re involved in an accident. The states without any laws regarding lane splitting or filtering include the following:
Arkansas’s Motor Vehicle Code does not mention lane splitting, so the practice is not technically illegal. Furthermore, the state does not provide any guidance on the matter. As a result, motorcyclists are responsible for prioritizing safety and remaining vigilant when navigating Arkansas’s roadways.
Although all motor vehicle operators should prioritize safety while driving, Delaware has no specific laws regarding lane splitting. This means that the practice is not explicitly illegal in the state.
Idaho’s Rules of the Road explicitly states that lane splitting, sharing, and filtering are illegal. However, the handbook also says that courts refer to the Idaho Statutes. Specifically, Section 49-637 makes no specific mention of lane splitting.
Kentucky’s motorcycle laws do not specifically mention lane splitting. This means the act is neither explicitly legal nor illegal in the state. How authorities handle a lane-splitting accident depends on the responding officer’s discretion.
Lane splitting is not considered legal in Mississippi, but Section 63-4-603 of the Mississippi Code does not explicitly prohibit it. Currently, state law enforcement officers use their discretion when determining whether to issue a ticket to a motorcyclist for lane splitting.
Lane splitting is also not explicitly prohibited in Missouri. However, it’s an unsafe practice that could increase the risk of a collision and leave motorcyclists more vulnerable on the road.
While New Jersey’s laws don’t explicitly prohibit lane splitting, law enforcement does not consider the practice legal. The state’s motor vehicle code doesn’t address lane splitting, but motorcyclists and drivers may be cited if they fail to keep right.
There’s no specific legislation in North Carolina that explicitly prohibits lane splitting. However, if a motorcyclist is involved in an accident while lane splitting, they may be considered at fault. Driving a vehicle on the right-hand part of the highway is generally legal for motorcycles in North Carolina, with some exceptions.
Section 4511.55 of the Ohio Revised Code does not explicitly mention lane splitting or filtering for motorcyclists. However, it requires two-wheeled vehicles to stay on the right side of the road whenever it is safe.
Lane splitting is not legally permitted in Texas. No specific law authorizes motorcyclists to pass between vehicles in the same traffic lane.
Lane splitting is not expressly prohibited in West Virginia but is not explicitly legal. Chapter 17C of the West Virginia Code does not even distinguish the rules of the road for motorcycles. However, motorcyclists should not assume that lane splitting is permitted in the state. Given the lack of clarity in the law, motorcyclists should exercise caution and prioritize safety on West Virginia’s roadways.
Which states have pending lane-splitting laws?
These US states have pending bills allowing or prohibiting lane-splitting in their jurisdictions.
Senate Bill 1947 aims to allow lane-splitting by amending Section 4A, Chapter 89 of the Massachusetts General Laws. The amendment will permit motorcycle drivers to drive in between rows of moving or stationary vehicles, provided these requisites exist:
- Motorcycle speed is not over 50 mph
- Motorcycle is not running 15 mph faster than the traffic flow
However, as of the time of this writing, the amendment has yet to be made into law.
House Bill 838 aims to amend Section 46.2-838 of the Code of Virginia by adding the definition of lane-filtering by motorcycle vehicles. This act will be permitted under the following conditions:
- The lane-filtering motorcycle is on a highway with two travel lanes in each direction
- The overtaking vehicle should not run over 20 mph when lane-filtering a slow-moving or stopped vehicle
- Lane filtering should be executed safely
However, as of the time of this writing, the amendment has yet to be made into law.
House Bill 23-1059 aims to allocate funds for a feasibility study exploring the development of a safe lane-splitting law for Colorado residents. The study would be a collaborative effort between the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The bill uses “lane splitting” instead of “lane filtering” to refer to this practice. The proposed addition of Section 43-1-131 to the Colorado Revised Statutes legalizing lane splitting is under consideration.
Connecticut’s lawmakers discussed legalizing lane filtering and splitting following the introduction of Senate Bill 629. The bill has been left and referred to the Committee on Transportation. However, there has been no update on its progress since its proposal during the 2019 session.
Lane-splitting is currently illegal in Maryland. However, under House Bill 917, it will be legal for motorcycles to go between lanes, provided that they run at five to 15 mph above the surrounding traffic. Once passed, this law will allow lane-filtering events at red lights as long as the cars are stationary.
House Bill 1046 was first introduced in Missouri on February 6, 2023. This bill aims to allow lane filtering within the state. It also differentiated lane filtering from splitting. Lane splitting will remain illegal under the proposed amendment.
Senate Bill 288 allows motorcyclists to drive at speeds up to five mph than surrounding traffic. This is currently in the Texas Senate. However, if passed, it will make lane splitting legal across the state.
In 2015, Washington tried to pass a bill legalizing lane splitting. The bill did not pass. However, after four years, lawmakers reintroduced Senate Bill 5254. Like its predecessor, this bill was still pending deliberation. The same bill was again reintroduced in 2020 and is still awaiting approval.
In what states is lane-splitting prohibited?
Some states explicitly prohibit lane splitting. Motorcyclists should note that they are violating the law when lane splitting in the following states.
Section 32-5A-242 of the Alabama Code expressly prohibits lane splitting. According to this law, motorcycles are illegal to travel between adjacent rows and lines of vehicles and between traffic lanes.
Article 9-13.02.427 of the Alaska Admin Code makes lane splitting illegal in the state. It prohibits motorcycles from overtaking or passing vehicles traversing the same lane. It also bans driving between traffic or vehicle lanes.
Section 316.209 of the Florida Statutes prohibits motorcycles from traveling between traffic lanes, vehicle rows, or adjacent lines. However, the prohibition of lane splitting does not apply to law enforcement or firefighters while on duty.
Section 40-6-312 of the Georgia Code explicitly prohibits lane filtering and splitting. However, two motorcycles can travel abreast in one lane.
According to the Illinois Vehicle Code, lane splitting is illegal in Illinois. It mandates overtaking drivers to keep a safe distance while passing on the left side of the vehicle traveling in a similar direction. They can only drive to the right of the road once it’s clear.
Section 9-21-10-6 of the Indiana Code prohibits lane splitting within the state. The law bans behavior that deprives vehicles of the full use of a traffic lane. As a result, lane sharing is only permitted in a staggered formation and up to a maximum of two motorcycles.
Section 321.275 of the Iowa Code prohibits lane splitting. It states that drivers must not ride motorcycles and motorized bicycles between vehicle rows, adjacent lines, or traffic lanes.
In Kansas, motorcycle riders can ride side-by-side in the same traffic lane provided it is wide enough for safety. However, Section 8-1595 of the Kansas Statutes explicitly forbids lane splitting.
Section 191.1 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes bans motorcycle operation between vehicle lines, adjacent rows, and traffic lanes. However, motorcycle drivers can use the same lane if only two vehicles run abreast.
Section 2062 of the Maine Statutes bans lane-splitting within the state. Like Louisiana, motorcycle operation between vehicle lines, adjacent rows, and traffic lanes is prohibited in Maine.
Section 257.66 of the Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits motorcycles from passing between traffic lanes. Drivers can only overtake other vehicles in an unoccupied traffic lane.
Side-by-side lane sharing is allowed in Minnesota. However, Section 169.974 Subd 5 (e) of the Minnesota Statutes prohibits lane splitting. Motorcycle drivers can’t ride between vehicle rows and traffic lanes.
Chapter 60-6,139 of the Nebraska Revised Statute prohibits motorcycle operation between vehicle lines, traffic lanes, and rows.
Like Nebraska, Section 486.351 of the Nevada Revised Statutes bans motorcycles from passing between traffic lanes. Lane sharing is allowed but only for two vehicles running abreast.
Section 265:121 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes prohibits lane splitting or riding between two lanes of traffic. However, motorcycles can ride alongside each other within the same lane, up to two abreast.
The New Mexico Statutes does not have a specific section prohibiting lane splitting. However, lane splitting is illegal as per individual city ordinances. For example, Section 8-3-2-2 of the Albuquerque Code of Ordinances makes lane splitting illegal. You may find the code of ordinances for each New Mexico city here.
According to Section 1252 of the Vehicle and Traffic (VAT) law riding between two lanes of traffic is not allowed in New York. Also, driving between lanes is considered a two-point offense and is punishable by law.
According to Section 39-10.2-03 of the North Dakota Motorcycle Law, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle in a way that deprives other vehicles of the full use of their lane. This means lane splitting is not allowed, and vehicles must always remain in their lane.
Section 47-11-1103 of the Oklahoma Statutes prohibits motorized two-wheel vehicles from passing other vehicles between traffic lanes. These include electric-assisted bicycles, motorized scooters, motor-driven cycles, and motorcycles. However, this doesn’t apply to authorized emergency vehicle operators.
Section 814.240 of the Oregon Administrative Rules prohibits lane splitting. Under this law, the following acts are illegal:
- Overtaking or passing a vehicle within the same lane
- Driving a motorcycle between traffic lanes and adjacent vehicle rows
Section 3523 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes prohibits the operation of motorcycles between lanes of traffic. The state’s Motorcycle Operator Manual issued a stern warning against lane splitting.
Apart from these states, lane splitting or white lining is also illegal in the following states: Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and South Dakota.
Will lane splitting affect your accident claim?
Suppose you’re filing a personal injury claim after a bike or motorcycle accident. In that case, lane splitting may affect your right to compensation. This applies whether you’re a bicycle, motorcycle, or other vehicle driver.
If you’re a party to a motorcycle accident, you can get compensation from the driver who caused your injuries. You may be entitled to damages under the following conditions:
- The alleged at-fault driver has a duty to exercise care while on the road
- The at-fault driver showed negligence by behaving less safely than what the circumstances demand
- The carelessness of the said driver is the direct cause of the collision
- You suffered injuries and losses as a result of the accident
Remember, however, that one driver splitting lanes doesn’t give the other driver the right to be negligent. The latter must also consider their safety by observing the rules of the road and remaining cautious while changing lanes.
These circumstances might be challenging to prove. Hence, it’s best to seek the help of a seasoned personal injury lawyer. They’re familiar with different state traffic laws. They can also represent you as you settle with the insurance company or other drivers or cyclists involved in the accident.
Did you know?
A UC Berkeley study persuaded California to push for lane splitting. According to this study, lane splitting is safe when the motorcycle driver runs at 50 mph or lower.
Know Your Lane Splitting Laws
It’s your legal responsibility as a citizen to know the prevailing laws in your state. Ignorance is not a defense when you violate these laws and cause harm to another person. You will be held accountable whether or not you were aware of these statutes.
If you need a legal resource on motorcycle laws and other legal topics, refer to The Personal Injury Center. We have many articles on various legal issues, including lane splitting. If you need legal advice, we have a database of lawyers to check how a lane-splitting incident affects your claims.
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Assert your rights by knowing your laws. If you have a valid accident claim, consult a lawyer. The Personal Injury Center can help you with both.
FAQs on Lane Splitting
How can lane splitting improve traffic?
A lane-splitting driver can maneuver seamlessly around stationary vehicles. Since they can leave the long traffic lines, they reduce the number of vehicles waiting to move. This is how they lessen traffic congestion.
Is it safer to lane split than to sit in traffic?
Suppose the traffic is moving at 50mph or less, and the motorcycle driver isn't driving faster than 15mph than other vehicles. In this case, lane splitting is safer than sitting in the same lane.
Why is speed a factor determining liability in lane-splitting cases?
When you're driving defensively while lane splitting, you can be at fault for missing the blind spots. Apart from swerving, nothing else may put a lane-splitting motorcycle driver at fault. However, you need to consider your speed.
The laws that allow lane splitting often specify a speed limit while in the act. If you exceed this limit and move faster than the surrounding traffic, you can be liable for injuries or overspeeding.