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Lane splitting, sometimes referred to as lane filtering, lane sharing, or white lining, can be a controversial and confusing topic from state to state.
This page is designed to dispel some of the myths, present where you can do it, and how to do it safely.
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting describes when motorcycles move between other traffic or in the same lane as other traffic when traffic is stopped or slowed considerably.
Since motorcycles are small and maneuverable, there is often plenty of space for them to move between cars when traffic is stopped.
Numerous studies and research since the permission of lane splitting in California have actually shown that it creates a safer environment for motorcyclists when done responsibly.
Lane splitting can:
- Reduce traffic congestion.
- Provide motorcyclists with more “escape routes.”
Filtering and lane splitting is common practice pretty much everywhere motorcycles and scooters are popular aside from the United States.
Tips for Lane Splitting Safely
In places where lane splitting is allowed, it is important to do it safely and responsibly.
Even if you’re lane splitting in a state where it is legal, the highway patrol can still ticket you for doing it unsafely.
Some tips for lane splitting safely include:
- Only doing it when you have enough room.
- Avoid lane splitting at high speeds.
- Avoid riding excessively faster than stopped or slowed traffic when lane splitting.
- Splitting between the far left lanes.
- Not splitting next to large vehicles like trucks, buses, or RVs.
- Keeping yourself visible.
If it can be done safely, lane splitting is a major benefit for motorists and other vehicles on the road.
However, it’s important to recognize the potential risks and hazards involved. As a motorcyclist, you’ll need to remember that you’ll be entering and exiting the blind spots of other drivers who may be frustrated sitting in traffic. Be alert, be respectful, and lane split responsibly.
Other vehicles have the responsibility to double check their mirrors and blind spots for motorcyclists before the try to change lanes or turn.
Is Lane Splitting Legal?
In the U.S. the legality of lane splitting varies from state to state.
Some have laws that specifically allow it, others have pending legislation, some have no laws, and others make it illegal.
Some states have definitions in the law for how lane splitting should be carried out, others simply allow it.
Legal Lane Splitting States
Lane splitting is officially permitted in:
- Hawaii (see notes below).
California Lane Splitting
While lane splitting has been allowed it California for quite some time, it wasn’t defined as explicitly legal until 2016.
That’s when lane splitting was officially recognized as legal in California.
The most relevant parts of California’s law splitting law (AB 51) state that:
- The CA Highway Patrol can develop guidelines on how to lane split safely and educate other motorists.
AB 51 was a result of a somewhat negative response to CHP’s original publishing of lane splitting guidelines.
In 2017, lane splitting was officially added to California’s Vehicle Code, which defined lane splitting as “…driving a motorcycle… that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
So, to answer the question, “Can a motorcycle ride between cars in California?” Yes, they can and it is every driver’s responsibility to help allow them to do so safely.
It is illegal to intentionally block or otherwise impede a motorcyclist.
Hawaii Lane Splitting
Lane splitting in Hawaii is aptly referred to as shoulder surfing.
Hawaii allows for motorcycles to use the shoulder when traffic is stopped.
Utah Lane Splitting
In Utah, the lane filtering law states that it can be done:
- Only on roads with speeds limits of 45 mph or less.
- Only when the road has 2 or more lanes.
- Only when other traffic is stopped.
- At no more than 15 mph.
- Only when it can be done safely.
States with Pending Legislation on Lane Splitting
There is pending legislation for lane splitting in the following states:
States with No Laws on Lane Splitting
State where lane splitting is not mentioned in the law include:
- New Mexico.
- North Carolina.
- West Virginia.
States where Lane Splitting is Illegal
Lane splitting is currently illegal in the following states:
- New Hampshire.
- New Jersey.
- New York.
- North Dakota.
- Rhode Island.
- South Carolina.
- South Dakota.