It is very likely that you have observed the following scenario – a rider on a motorcycle driving between slow traffic on the highway. In some ways it’s understandable. It can be more difficult for a motorcyclist to stop and start in traffic because the rider constantly needs to balance the bike. They may also fear that somebody coming up from behind may hit them. In these cases, a motorcycle driver might be tempted to drive between cars. This is known as lane splitting.
Lane splitting, also known as white lining, is when a motorcyclist drives their bike between cars. It frequently happens when traffic is stalled or congested.
The topic of lane splitting is a controversial one. Currently only California legally allows motorcyclists to lane split.
Lane splitting is illegal in most other states in the United States. In 11 states, it is neither illegal nor legal and is ticketed by the police when they think it is necessary to do so.
As tempting as it may be, it is illegal in Illinois to lane split according to Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-703 as well as extremely dangerous for both motorcyclist and the drivers they pass. In Illinois, the law states that any driver of a two-wheeled vehicle — that is, a motorcycle, moped or scooter — may not, in passing upon the left of any vehicle driving in the same direction, pass on the right of any vehicle moving in the same direction. Basically, this means a motorcyclist can’t drive in between the car on their left and the car on their right. A motorcyclist can do this, however, on a highway with three lanes where the motorcyclist is driving in the middle lane.
If police stop a motorcyclist for lane splitting, at a minimum, they would receive a ticket. There are far greater risks of splitting, however, including the possibility of severe accidents and injuries for both the motorcyclists and other drivers. For all the questions about lane splitting, it remains a hazardous practice:
Lane splitting leaves very little room for error by either the motorcyclist or the drivers in the cars they are passing.
Organizations that support lane splitting, such as the American Motorcyclist Association, argue that lane splitting can be safe if it is done correctly. For instance, a motorcyclist would not be allowed to drive any faster than 10 to 15 miles an hour between cars. The main reason lane splitting advocates support the practice is that they argue it reduces the chances that motorcyclist will be rear-ended by another car or that they themselves will rear-end another car. They also argue that lane splitting will reduce traffic congestion, which is another danger for motorcyclists.
Lane splitting advocates say that when vehicles are moving very slowly, such as in congested traffic, drivers are inattentive and easily distracted. This poses a direct threat to motorcyclists if they have to drive behind them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called for the issue of lane splitting to be more thoroughly studied as it may be a positive way to ease congested traffic.
Opponents of lane splitting, which include many police organizations and the American Automobile Association, strongly disagree with these arguments. They do not see any real benefits for congested traffic and argue that lane splitting puts both motorcyclists and car drivers in danger. They argue many car drivers resent motorcyclists who speed between cars in congested traffic and that it may lead to road rage against motorcyclists. They say lane splitting creates a hazardous situation for all involved.
Sadly, very little research has been done on the benefits of road splitting. This provides fuel for both advocates and opponents to argue their positions. Also, both sides tend to see support for their arguments in the limited amount of research that has been done.
Currently, California is the only state where lane splitting is legally allowed. It is neither legal nor illegal in 11 other states:
In these states, the legality of lane splitting is left up to the discretion of any police officer who witnesses it. If the driver is moving slowly between cars, the police officer may not cite them for reckless driving. If they are moving too fast and endangering other drivers, however, they may be pulled over.
The University of California at Berkeley published the main study on lane splitting with their report on the safety of lane splitting in 2015. Proponents of lane splitting point to the research in this study that showed lane splitting meant motorcyclists were far less likely to be struck from behind by another car, suffered fewer serious injuries to the head and torso and were less likely to be killed if they were involved in a crash.
Proponents also point to other countries, particularly in Asia and Europe, where lane splitting has been legal for years.
Opponents, however, used research from the same study to buttress their argument. This study showed that 17 percent of the 6,000 collisions in California between June 2012 and August 2013 that involved motorcyclists were the result of lane splitting. This statistic, opponents argue, shows the dangers of lane splitting and why it should remain illegal.
Opponents of lane splitting currently hold the upper hand in the debate. While legislators in 15 states have introduced bills that would allow lane splitting, they have either been voted down or not gathered enough support to leave the committee stage. A bill passed in Arizona, but then-governor Jan Brewer vetoed it.
The move to make a lane splitting legal has not died away, however, and legislators in several states are still trying to pass new laws allowing it. For instance, a lane splitting bill is currently being debated in Oregon. And although Gov. Brewer vetoed a previous lane splitting bill in Arizona, legislators initiated a new attempt to pass similar legislation in 2018. In total, seven states are considering lane splitting legislation.
In Illinois, whether you’re talking about a motor vehicle accident or a personal injury case, the state observes what is known as a modified comparative fault rule. If you are involved in an accident with a motorcyclist who is lane splitting, it is possible that both drivers could be assigned part of the blame even though lane splitting is illegal.
For instance, the motorcyclist is always in the wrong when lane splitting in Illinois. There are situations, however, when the behavior of the driver involved in an accident also comes into play. Suppose the driver fails to use their turn signal and just pulls out into traffic suddenly. If the driver is intoxicated and is swerving in traffic, this can also be cited by a motorcyclist’s attorney. When road rage causes a driver of a car to become infuriated when they see motorcyclists lane splitting in the rearview mirror and intentionally swerve to swipe the motorcyclist or suddenly open their door to strike the motorcyclists is another situation where blame may be apportioned to both parties.
If you are involved in an accident with a motorcyclist who was lane splitting, and a judge or jury decides that you were 25 percent responsible for the accident, then any damages the court awards you will be reduced by that amount. So if you were awarded $40,000 in damages and were found to be 25 percent liable for the accident, that means your award would be reduced by $10,000.
It is very unusual, however, that a driver is found to be more than 51 percent responsible for an accident involving a motorcyclist was lane splitting. Therefore, lane splitting is much more of a problem for motorcyclist involved in an accident. Even if they are severely injured, they would still be held liable for any compensation due to the driver.
The best advice in this situation is to do the same things you would do if you were involved in an accident with another car:
There are over 350,000 motorcycles in the state of Illinois. That means that you’ll likely see one or more the next time you go driving. Or worse, you may not see them even if they are there. It’s good sense to practice safe driving where motorcyclists are concerned:
If you have been involved in a lane splitting accident, you should contact the Chicago car accident attorneys at Argionis and Associates today. Our experienced and knowledgeable team of lawyers know how to deal with insurance companies to get you the compensation for which you are eligible.
If you have been involved in a lane splitting accident and would like to talk to us about it, you can call us at 312-626-6294 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. You can leave us your contact details and some information or questions about your accident. A member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.