Legal Maneuvers: Your Checklist for Dealing with Lane-Splitting Motorcycle Accidents


Have you encountered motorcycles in and out of multiple lanes during traffic? Riding a motorcycle between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic is called lane splitting. 

Although this strategy is permitted in specific locations, it is controversial and subject to differing laws and opinions worldwide. This is because lane-splitting poses significant risks to motorcyclists and other road users.

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident involving lane-splitting drivers, you might ask, “Can I receive compensation for the damages?” This article will help you understand your legal rights in a lane-splitting crash and provide a checklist you can follow to protect it. 

What is Lane-Splitting?

Motorcycles can drive between cars on the same or adjacent lanes by lane splitting, which entails navigating between two lanes of motionless or moving traffic. Usually, motorcyclists can do this in the space marked by the white traffic lines on the road, particularly in crowded areas where traffic is either stopped or going slowly. 

Although the terms “lane splitting,” “lane sharing,” and “lane filtering” are occasionally used synonymously, they have different meanings:

  • When riders pass through slow-moving or stationary traffic, they exhibit lane filtering. In scenarios with multiple lanes, intersections, and traffic signals, a rider might engage in “lane filtering” by moving forward between rows of vehicles halted at a traffic light. This allows the rider to advance to the front of the line.
  • While traveling on a multilane highway, a motorcyclist may engage in “lane splitting,” which involves riding between two lines of vehicles when traffic is slowed or stopped due to congestion. 
  • Conversely, lane sharing describes a group of riders on a motorcycle or bicycle that share a lane, either side by side or in close formation.

While permissible, lane splitting carries inherent risks for road users, particularly when executed recklessly. It is recommended to follow the guidelines below when lane splitting to ensure safety:

  • Maintain a moderate speed differential for a controlled maneuver, ideally not exceeding ten mph over the surrounding traffic.
  • Enhance visibility by signaling intentions and utilizing headlights before changing lanes.
  • Exercise caution in stopped or slow-moving traffic, anticipating unexpected movements from other vehicles.
  • Ensure complete control of the motorcycle; refrain from splitting lanes if space is insufficient or discomfort arises.
  • Anticipate driver actions by frequently checking mirrors, remaining vigilant of surrounding vehicles, and noting blind spots.
  • Choose optimal conditions for lane splitting: slow-moving traffic, open roads, and good visibility. Avoid lane splitting in adverse weather.
  • Be prepared for other drivers’ actions by observing brake lights, signals, and indications of potential lane changes.
  • Be ready to brake rapidly by observing traffic ahead and maintaining a safe following distance.

Is Lane-Splitting Dangerous?

Lane-splitting may become dangerous on the road when done without caution. While lane-splitting can be a safe way for motorcyclists to navigate through traffic and potentially reduce traffic congestion, it may result in several dangers and risks, such as:

  • Reduced reaction time
  • Aggressive driving
  • Increased likelihood of rear-ending vehicles

According to research titled “Motorcycle Lane-splitting and Safety in California,” lane splitting decreases rear-end collisions. This is positive information, as riders engaging in lane splitting were less than half as likely to experience a rear-end collision compared to those who did not lane split.

However, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission stated that motorcyclists engaging in lane splitting had a higher likelihood of rear-ending another vehicle (38% compared to 16%). However, they exhibited lower chances of sustaining injuries to the head, neck, or torso and were also less prone to fatal injuries in a crash.

Overall, the safety of lane-splitting depends on factors such as rider behavior, traffic conditions, and adherence to recommended guidelines. If motorcyclists and drivers ensure the utmost safety on the road, lane-splitting can be beneficial, significantly reducing traffic congestion. 

What Does the Law Say About Lane Splitting?

States in the United States have different laws regarding the legality of lane splitting. Only in California is lane splitting expressly permitted, as long as it is carried out correctly. 

In several states, lane splitting is not allowed, but certain behaviors similar to it are. For example, Arizona, Montana, and Utah allow lane filtering in specific circumstances, and Hawaii permits shoulder surfing.

Moreover, lane splitting is not explicitly prohibited in some other states, although it is frequently viewed as unclear or discouraged. There are specific rules that indirectly address lane splitting by forcing motorcyclists to drive in a single lane or forbidding them from passing other cars in that lane.

Your Checklist: Steps to Take After a Lane-Splitting Motorcycle Crash

Crashing into another vehicle while lane-splitting or being hit by a lane-splitting motorcyclist can become frustrating and overwhelming, especially if you sustain injuries from the accident. It is best to follow the checklist below to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights when involved in such instances.

Receiving Medical Treatment

Your priority after the lane-splitting motorcycle accident should be your health and safety. After a crash, you can move to a safe location, assess if you have injuries, and seek medical attention immediately. 

Aside from safeguarding your well-being, this is also a way to ensure that your injuries are adequately addressed in a claim by determining the present, past, and future medical costs.  

Getting medical assistance for injuries is critical, no matter how minor. Some injuries might not show symptoms immediately, so keeping records is essential when filing personal injury claims.

Collecting Evidence

Having evidence is the only way for you to prove your personal injury claim when receiving compensation for the damages. So, you must gather proof at the accident scene if you can.

After the lane-splitting motorcycle accident, exchange contact and insurance details with other relevant parties. Gather names, addresses, phone numbers, and license plate numbers.

You can also take photos of the accident scene that show the positions of the vehicles, any damage, and any road signs. Additionally, get witness contact information.

Reporting to Authorities

You must call the authorities immediately after the crash, especially if it results in injuries. This way, you can secure a police report, which can help speed up the legal process.

When cooperating with the police officers, give precise details about the area and any injuries that may have occurred.

Filing a Motorcycle Accident Claim

Lane-splitting motorcycle accidents may result in catastrophic injuries. How will you file a claim for compensation if you need to focus on your recovery? No matter the severity, motorcycle accidents should be dealt with by a legal expert. They can collect evidence, determine liability, and negotiate on your behalf while you heal from your injuries. 

For instance, you suffered leg injuries after colliding with a car while you were lane-splitting. The other driver’s insurance company insisted that you were partially at fault and offered a reduced settlement. Even if you knew you were safely lane-splitting and the other driver was texting during the crash, you decided to take the offer to cover your present medical expenses.

Remember that you should know when to hire a car accident lawyer. In such a circumstance, your attorney can turn the situation around and fight for maximum compensation by determining the accident’s total damages and negotiating for their full value. 

It is always a good idea to seek help from a legal expert with the experience, expertise, and resources to protect your rights in a lane-splitting motorcycle accident.