"Lane splitting," the practice of riding a motorcycle down the dividing line between two lanes of traffic, is practiced by motorcycle enthusiasts nationwide. But is lane splitting legal?
There aren't any federal laws addressing the issue, but some state laws do address the practice of lane splitting. However, many states' traffic laws don't mention lane splitting at all.
Here's what you need to know about state laws regarding lane splitting:
Practically Illegal in Most States
While many states don't have any explicit legal provisions on lane splitting one way or the other, in most states, law enforcement officers can pull a cyclist over for splitting lanes.
It may be true that "lane splitting" isn't illegal in these states, but officers will usually cite motorcycle riders who ride along a lane divider with something similar to reckless driving.
In Texas, for example, a biker may be cited under Section 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code for not riding "within a single lane" or moving between lanes in an unsafe manner.
It isn't a smart idea to try to press your luck by lane splitting in these states, and drivers must allow bikers a full lane just like any other vehicle.
Some States Prohibit Lane Spitting
It may be a gray area in states like Texas, but in other states, there are explicit laws against motorcycle lane splitting.
Florida is one state where there is a specific ban against lane splitting, making it a traffic offense to "operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles."
This might be only an infraction, meaning no possible jail time for a lane-splitting violation, but it gives an officer reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop -- which may end in a search of the rider's bike.
Lane Splitting Legal in California
California is the only state that specifically provides for legal lane splitting. According to the California Highway Patrol, lane splitting is legal if it is done in a "safe and prudent manner."
Elsewhere on the West Coast, Oregon tried to pass two separate pro-lane-splitting bills earlier this year. But according to an unnamed staffer in Oregon State Sen. Larry George's Office, both bills are currently considered "dead" in state's legislature, according to a website called LaneSplittingIsLegal.com.
For Oregon bikers who are caught lane splitting prior to an accident, this means that current traffic laws may label your conduct as negligence per se. This determination can potentially make a lane-splitting motorcyclist liable in a car accident lawsuit.
Nothing is preventing other states from following California's lead. But for now, bikers will want to be wary of lane splitting outside of the Golden State.