As many people know, it’s far more dangerous to drive a motorcycle than an enclosed vehicle. This is true for more than a few reasons. For starters, they have much less protection surrounding them in the event of a motorcycle accident. The chances of suffering serious or catastrophic injuries in motorcycle accidents are far greater than for other motor vehicles. For these reasons, motorcyclists should exercise extreme caution while on busy roads. It’s also important to understand the laws and regulations that govern motorcycle riders. This includes lane splitting and lane sharing.
At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, our New York personal injury lawyers can help if you were injured while on the road. New York motorcycle law can be tricky, but our attorneys are here to help. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, contact us today to discuss ways we can recover compensation based on the specifics of your case. Call our office at 518-456-0082 or fill out our online intake form to schedule a consultation.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is the act of riding either a motorcycle or bicycle between lanes of traffic, particularly slow or stopped traffic. Other terms for this include stripe-riding and white lining. Many motorcycle riders do this in order to avoid traffic, save time, bypass congestion, and avoid becoming trapped by stationary vehicles. Particularly in areas of a denser population, this is a fairly common practice. However, where does the legality fall for lane splitting? Is lane splitting legal? The answer varies depending on the state in which you reside.
How Common Is Lane Splitting?
As we stated before, lane splitting is most common in areas with a high population density. Countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, India, and others are well-known for the practice. This is because many of the vehicles in these areas are two-wheeled and smaller, which makes it easier to weave through traffic.
In the United States, lane splitting is more common in areas of significant traffic congestion and slow moving traffic. For example, New York City and California are two areas where motorcycle lane splitting is common. Other types of lane usage are common as well, which we explain below.
Difference Between Lane Filtering, Lane Sharing, and Lane Splitting
When a motorcycle passes one or more cars in the region between two lanes, which is generally the area where the road line is drawn, this is known as lane splitting. Motorcyclists typically employ lane splitting to avoid having to stop in heavy traffic.
Lane sharing is the practice of driving in a traffic lane in such a way that other vehicles can utilize the vacant area of the lane or overtake slower traffic in the lane by utilizing the unused portion of the lane. Filtering forward refers to lane sharing done for the sake of overtaking sluggish or halted congested traffic. Lane splitting is when lane sharing is done by utilizing the space between traffic lines.
What States Allow Lane Splitting 2022?
Currently, few states explicitly allow lane splitting: California, Utah, and Montana. Utah and Montana are the only other states in which lane splitting is partially allowed. Motorcycle riders in Utah may pass between two lanes of traffic, but only when traffic is stopped. This is called lane filtering.
The California Vehicle Code states that responsible lane splitting is fully legal. Utah allows a modified version of lane splitting called lane filtering. Montana recently became the third state to legalize lane splitting in late 2021. SB 9 states that operators of two-wheeled motorcycles can “overtake stopped or slow-moving vehicles at a speed not in excess of 20 mph, to filter between lanes of stopped traffic traveling in the same direction as conditions permit, and specifies reasonable and prudent motorcycle operation while lane filtering.”
Currently, both Oregon and Washington are also considering changes to administrative law which would help in legalizing lane splitting. Every other state either bans the practice outright or fails to address the issue.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in NY?
Lane splitting is illegal under New York law. While a common practice, especially in busy New York City, it is still illegal. New York traffic laws administer tickets for splitting lanes. Lane splitting guidelines are outlined specifically in VAT 1252, which we explain below.
New York Lane Splitting Laws
Vehicle and Traffic Chapter 71, Title 7, Article 34-A specifically outlines motorcycle lane splitting and its illegality. It also protects the right of a motorcycle rider to full use of a lane. In other words, other motor vehicles may not drive in such a way that deprives a motorcycle of the full use of their lane. However, two motorcycles may share a single lane when operated side by side and facing the same direction. Below, we outline the other regulations for lane splitting riders.
- A motorbike driver is not permitted to overtake and pass in the same lane as the automobile being surpassed.
- A motorbike may not be operated between lanes of traffic or near lines or rows of automobiles.
- In the same lane, no more than two motorcycles may be operated side by side.
- The above limitations do not apply to police officers in the commission of official duties.
Why Is It Illegal to Split Lanes in NY?
The states that currently do not allow lane splitting cite safety concerns despite the potential for improvements to traffic congestion in certain areas. Despite the relative success that it sees in areas such as California, there are conflicting concerns about the practicality of lane splitting. We outline the pros and cons of the motorcycle riding practice below.
Pros and Cons of Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Lane Split Pros
- Convenience: It’s a common argument that allowing lane splitting in congested areas helps to alleviate some of that congestion. For two-wheeled vehicles and motorcycles, this allows them to bypass stalled traffic, rather than waiting around for hours and contributing to the congestion. Some cities around the world rely quite heavily on this practice, and to outlaw it would greatly affect the flow of traffic.
- Safer practices: According to a 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley, those who practice and support lane splitting tend to travel at safer speeds, wear better helmets, and are less likely in general to suffer serious injuries than those who do not engage in lane splitting.
- Speed limit: The same Berkeley study found that engaging in split lanes is reasonably safe at 50 mph and under. Additionally, it is relatively safe at higher speeds if there is a discrepancy of no more than 15 mph between the motorcycle and larger vehicles.
Lane Split Cons
- Basic safety risks: As differences in speed increase, lane splitting becomes significantly more dangerous. Specific concerns include car doors opening suddenly, sudden lane changes from other car drivers, visibility issues with large trucks and tractor trailers, and hook collisions or rear end collisions with turning vehicles.
- Untrained drivers: In countries where only a small portion of states have legalized it, there is a much larger concern. Vehicle drivers who are simply not used to the practice have a harder time meeting and avoiding the associated risks.
- Uncooperative motorists: Legal lane splitting is newer in the United States than in many other countries. Thus, many drivers still dislike the practice and refuse to cooperate with motorcyclists, making lane splitting hazardous.
What to Do if You Were in a Lane Splitting Motorcycle Accident
If you were involved in a New York motorcycle accident involving lane splitting, there are several key points to remember. The first step we recommend, after seeking medical care, is to speak with a New York personal injury attorney at Bailey, Johnson & Peck. Because of the illegal status of lane splitting in New York, the motorcyclist has the burden of proof to show that they exercised extreme caution while changing lanes.
An attorney can help you prove that the car accident wasn’t your fault, or will help to reduce your level of fault to receive as much compensation as possible. Motorcycle safety is extremely important, so as long as you exercise caution while around them on the road, your personal injury case has a better chance of succeeding.
How Does Lane Splitting Affect Compensation After an Accident?
New York is one of 13 states that has a true comparative fault system in place. This implies that even if one side is 99 percent to blame, each party in a personal injury claim has a chance to obtain compensation. This is in contrast to a modified comparative fault, which prohibits the principally culpable party from receiving compensation. However, New York courts adjust compensation according to the degree of fault of all parties involved in motorcycle accidents. The best way to approach the situation is to speak with a qualified motorcycle accident attorney in your area.
Contact Bailey, Johnson & Peck for a Consultation
At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, we have served Albany and the capital district of New York state for more than 40 years. Our full-service law firm excels in cases involving motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, other motor vehicle accidents, and catastrophic injuries. We offer sound counsel and sensible solutions for those bogged down by medical bills and other injury-related expenses. For more information on how we can help in your case, please call 518-456-0082 or fill out our online intake form today.