What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting?
You’ve probably been sitting in traffic somewhere in Texas when, all of a sudden, you see someone on a motorcycle pass by in a flash. You may not even have been stopped at the time. This common practice is called lane splitting.
Just because riders split lanes of traffic doesn’t mean it’s safe or legal. Lane splitting contributes to many motorcycle accidents in Texas every year.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist ignores dashed lines on a highway and rides between two lanes of traffic. Motorcyclists tend to split lanes – which is also called stripe riding, lane sharing, and lane filtering – to save time and beat traffic.
In Texas, lane splitting is against the law. Texas Transportation Code Section 545.060 explains that drivers (including motorcyclists) have to stay within a single lane of traffic and can only leave their chosen lane when it’s safe to do so.
Texas Wants to Follow in California’s Footsteps and Legalize Lane Splitting
However, Texas is one of six states that is thinking about formally recognizing lane splitting in its state laws. To date, California is the only state in the country that’s legalized motorcycle lane splitting. Bills have been introduced in the state Senate as recently as 2017. The laws would introduce safety rules to make the practice safer.
Some of the proposed safety rules include:
- Allowing lane splitting on roads where the speed limit is less than 45 MPH
- Only permitting lane splitting between stopped vehicles, and
- Lane splitting only acceptable on roads with a minimum of four lanes of traffic.
However, none of those bills have made much progress.
Who is Responsible When an Accident Involves a Lane Splitting Motorcyclist?
Since lane splitting is illegal, a rider can be responsible for an accident if they were splitting lanes at the time of an accident. In fact, anyone injured in the crash might be able to say that the rider was negligent per se. This can make getting compensation easier.
However, in Texas, anyone who contributes to a motorcycle accident can be responsible for resulting damages. This might include a lane-splitting motorcyclist, negligent driver, or even a distracted pedestrian. If hazardous road conditions contributed to the accident, the state, county, or city where the accident happened might be liable for your injuries or damage to your vehicle. The company that manufactured your bike, car, or safety equipment might also be responsible if a defect in their product contributed to your injury.
It’ll be important to investigate your crash and determine every possible cause. Did the driver of a vehicle change lanes without looking and cause a crash with a lane-splitting motorcyclist? Was the motorcyclist trying to avoid a distracted bicyclist when they were forced to split lanes? The circumstances matter.
If you’ve been in an accident, don’t hesitate to discuss your case with an experienced Texas personal injury lawyer.
Experts Divided on Whether or Not Lane Splitting is Safe
Some experts believe that lane splitting can actually reduce accidents and keep motorcyclists safe. Others believe that lane splitting creates a situation where accidents are more likely to occur. However, most agree that speed is the most critical factor in determining whether or not lane splitting is safe.
This consensus appears to be behind the push to legalize – or at least regulate – lane splitting in Texas. By controlling when riders can split lanes, lawmakers hope to reduce accidents across the state.