lane splitting in illinois

Is Lane Splitting Legal Date: Mar 29, 2022

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.

What is 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.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in Illinois

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.

illegal lane splitting in illinois

The Dangers of Lane Splitting

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:

  • It is difficult for drivers to see a motorcyclist who has started to lane split.
  • Any driver making a left-hand turn may not see a rider on a motorbike and hit them when turning.
  • Sometimes in congested traffic, cars are very close to each other. A motorcyclist driving between them could knock off a side mirror or cause other damage.
  • Motorcycles make loud noises. They could startle car drivers who would swerve to avoid them and thus hit other cars.
  • If a driver suddenly notices a motorcyclist lane splitting in the rearview mirror or is startled if the motorcyclist suddenly drives by them, they may overreact and panic.
  • Lane splitting is also known as white lining because the white line dividing lanes of traffic going in the same direction is often where motorcyclists drive. Unfortunately, these painted areas can become slippery in wet weather. Even an experienced motorcyclist can lose control of their bike if the weather is bad.
  • Uneven road surfaces, such as bumps or potholes, may not be seen in time by a motorcyclist, especially if they are driving too fast. A motorcyclist who hits a pothole or a bump could lose control and swerve in front of other vehicles.
  • If a motorcyclist is lane splitting, they will often be in a driver’s blind spot. If a driver is moving into a right-hand lane because they need to get off at the next exit, they could hit the motorcyclist who they may not even have seen.
  • Lane splitting makes changing lanes in traffic extremely dangerous for both a driver and a motorcyclist. This is especially true if traffic is moving fast even if congested.
  • Lane splitting also leads to confusion at intersections. Intersections are one of the leading spots for accidents that happen. If a motorcyclist has driven up between two cars, other drivers may think they have the right-of-way at the same time the motorcyclist tries to go through the intersection which could result in a bad accident.

Lane splitting leaves very little room for error by either the motorcyclist or the drivers in the cars they are passing.

Why Do Motorcyclists Lane Split?

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.

why motorcyclists lane split

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.

Where is Lane Splitting Legal?

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:

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

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.

Where Does the Fault Lie in a Lane Splitting Accident

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.

fault in lane splitting

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.

What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Lane Splitting Accident

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:

  • Do not leave the scene of the accident. Remain with your car until the police arrive and begin their investigation.
  • If you or any of your passengers have been injured, seek immediate medical attention by dialing 911. If you have not been seriously injured, try to help anyone who is, including the motorcyclist.
  • Even if you do not believe you have been seriously injured, after the police clear you to leave the scene, immediately go to an emergency room or arrange a visit to your doctor to be examined.
  • Take photos of any damage to your car and of the scene itself. Take notes about the condition of the roads, the location and the weather. You should also take pictures of any injuries to yourself or to your passengers. If there are any witnesses present, get their names and contact information.
  • Never admit that the accident was your fault — not to the police, to the motorcyclists or even to your own insurance company. Simply describe what happened as clearly and as plainly as possible. Leave it up to the police to determine who may be at fault in the accident.
  • As soon as you can, call your insurance company and describe what happened to them as clearly as you can.
  • Sometimes an insurance adjuster from your company or the motorcyclist’s company will arrive on the scene and make you an immediate offer of compensation. Always refuse this offer. Never accept any offer of compensation until you’ve had a chance to talk to an attorney who has experience in motor vehicle accidents.

lane splitting accident

What is the Best Way to Avoid Being in an Accident With a Motorcyclist?

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:

  • Remember, motorcyclists can appear out of nowhere, particularly if they are lane splitting. Understand that this may happen while you’re driving and be aware.
  • Don’t let anger get the best of you. If you see a motorcyclist lane splitting, and it makes you angry, call the police. Do not take any action yourself or allow your anger to make you do anything you will regret.
  • If you need to make a turn, always use your turn signal and remember to check over your shoulder for your blind spots.
  • If a motorcyclist is driving in front of you, give them a bit more room than usual. Try to count three seconds between you and the motorcyclist. That should give you more than enough room to stop if you need to brake suddenly.
  • A motorcyclist has the same rights on the road as you do in your car. Treat them with respect, and you will avoid many problems.

If You Have Been Involved in a Lane Splitting Accident, Call the Experienced Attorneys at Argionis and Associates to Help You

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.

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George Argionis has over 20 years of experience in handling cases involving auto collisions, premises injuries, medical malpractice, product liability, construction-related and work-related injuries. He has dedicated his career to helping restore lives both emotionally and economically.