How Legal Is Lane Splitting?

There's been plenty of controversy over the practice of lane splitting -- a normal practice for motorcyclists in other countries but relatively uncommon in the United States. Proponents of the practice are quick to point out the various benefits of lane splitting, including its ability to reduce both traffic congestion and the likelihood of serious injury in a crash. However, the legality of lane splitting continues to vary from state to state.

If you're involved in a motorcycling accident while lane splitting, the legality of it in your state can drastically affect the outcome of your injury case. The following provides an in-depth look at lane splitting and its legal status throughout the United States.

It Depends on Where You Ride

As mentioned before, the legality of lane splitting depends on your state's motor vehicle statutes. For instance, most states address lane splitting by prohibiting the practice outright, with fines and points issued to motorcyclists who run afoul of the statutes.

Other states, including Delaware, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas, make little to no mention of lane splitting in their motor vehicle statutes. That doesn't make the practice legal, however. Law enforcement officers in these states often prohibit lane splitting by fining riders based on other offenses, such as operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe or overly aggressive manner.

California was also one of the many states that did not officially prohibit lane splitting. Instead, the practice was largely overlooked by law enforcement, with the California Highway Patrol maintaining unofficial guidelines to help motorcyclists filter through traffic safely. That all changed with the enactment of Assembly Bill 51 in 2016.

So far, California is the only state to legally sanction lane splitting. Other states have attempted to follow suit, only for those plans to lose traction for various reasons. The concept of lane splitting is actually an old one that stretches back decades, but only in recent years has the practice gained enough attention to merit legislative attention.

How Lane Splitting Affects Your Settlement

The legalization of lane splitting makes it easier to pursue a fair settlement for any injuries sustained during the practice -- at least as long as the accident occurs in California. Elsewhere, the courts may take a less favorable view of lane splitting, especially if it's forbidden by state law. As a result, you could face a much tougher battle when it comes to your personal injury case.

In states with no clear statutes outlawing lane splitting, however, your attorney may be able to use mitigating circumstances to influence a more positive outcome for your case. If you have a spotless driving record or the other driver was involved in a far more dangerous activity, for instance, these mitigating factors may help improve your chances of a successful settlement. 

If you were recently involved in a motorcycle accident where lane splitting was involved, you may be unsure how to proceed in your state. If so, contact a law firm, such as Monro  Law Firm P.S. Inc, to find out where you stand legally with your case.