What Is Lane Splitting?

Many people commute on a motorcycle or bike for one reason and one reason only: lane splitting. This maneuver makes it easy to navigate around traffic and arrive at a destination even sooner. But is lane splitting safe? Is it legal?

These are two very important questions. And before you engage in lane splitting, you should seek out the answers. So if you own a motorcycle and want to know what lane splitting is and whether it’s legal, we’ll explore this question in the post below.

What Does Lane Splitting Mean?

You’ve likely seen it happen. An upcoming motorcyclist or biker rides around slowed or stopped traffic, totally disregarding the lines on the road. This maneuver is called lane splitting. You might also hear it called stripe-riding or whitelining. 

Lane splitting is especially common in areas of heavy traffic, like the downtown centers of big cities. It may be annoying, but many drivers understand the temptation.

Is It Safe to Split Lanes?

Lane splitting has some appeal. But is it safe? There are actually two schools of thought. 

Proponents of lane splitting argue that the maneuver actually increases rider safety. In fact, according to a study from the University of California Berkeley, lane splitting is perfectly safe – that is, as long as it’s done when traffic is moving at 50 mph or less

Advocates claim that lane splitting reduces a rider’s risk of being rear-ended.

As for those who claim the maneuver is dangerous, it’s easy to see why. Veering outside of marked lanes puts a rider at risk of hitting debris, gravel, or even open doors from parked cars.

The answer to this question depends on where you’re riding. California became the first state to legalize lane splitting. It’s also not strictly prohibited in these 12 states:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • West Virginia

Notably missing from this list is the great state of Pennsylvania. So while you can’t legally use the maneuver today, make sure to check back in periodically. As more states legalize lane splitting, who knows what the future may hold. 

What Are the Penalties for Lane Splitting?

The biggest problem with using the illegal maneuver is that any rider who crashes while lane splitting will likely be liable for the resulting damages, which can include everything from medical bills to car repairs and more. 

At the very least, you risk an expensive ticket and fees when you split lanes. So it’s probably best to avoid the maneuver entirely.  

Are There Alternatives to Lane Splitting?

If you want to shorten your commute, there are a few other options you can consider. These options won’t leave you vulnerable to painful injuries or hefty tickets:

  • Stagger your work hours so you avoid traveling through rush hour
  • Talk to your workplace about opportunities to work from home
  • Try a new travel app that can suggest alternate routes
  • Invest in a toll-roads pass
  • Consider taking the bus

If none of these options work for you, it may be time to accept the inevitable – you’ll have to travel in the same traffic as the drivers around you.

When Do I Need an Attorney? 

Unfortunately, the risk of injury or death is much higher when you’re operating a motorcycle. That’s why, for the most part, you should call an attorney any time you become involved in a motorcycle accident. A legal professional can help you to fight charges of lane splitting or seek compensation for an accident caused by another driver.