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Should Lane Splitting be Made Legal in Texas?

Posted on Saturday, October 26th, 2019 at 3:31 am    

Motorcyclists and motorists don’t always see eye to eye, especially when motorcycle riders slip up between lanes of traffic in congested streets. The practice of lane splitting is something that only motorcyclists and bicyclists are capable of doing and whether it is legal or not, it is certainly a common practice. The question is whether lane splitting is inherently safer for riders. No-one would argue that motorcyclists (and cyclists) are several times more vulnerable in busy traffic than those encased in what riders often call a “cage,” i.e. a conventional vehicle.

Is lane splitting safe?

The primary reason why riders sidle up between lanes and often straddle the lane markings (hence the term ‘lane splitting’)is that it gets them to where they want to go far faster than waiting behind in a queue. There has been some research done, mostly by the University of California, Berkeley that seems to indicate that lane splitting could actually be safer for riders. Part of the reason is that it tends to stop, or at least partially prevent, the danger from rear end collisions. When motorists follow a motorcycle the natural tendency to keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front seems to be lessened, possibly because the driver doesn’t feel at risk as much as they would behind a normal four or more wheeled vehicle.

The same research, conducted and published by the University team, suggested that lane splitting was most safe at speeds of below 50 mph or if at faster speeds as long as there wasn’t more than 15 mph difference between the rider and adjacent drivers.

Additional conclusions were that riders who employed lane splitting tended to employ other safety measures such as not carrying pillion passengers, wearing a better type of crash helmet and traveling at safer speeds.

California has now made lane splitting legal

Perhaps based on the Berkeley research findings, California became the first state to formally legalize lane splitting this year in August. The law not only officially allows motorcyclists to line split, but also prevents other motorists from actively preventing riders from doing so.

As the legislation is so recent, it will presumably take some time before any feedback from the law change in terms of rider injury statistics can be made. There has been some concern voiced that allowing lane splitting is all very well, but it doesn’t help if there are motorists from out of state who are unaware of the rule and don’t provide lane splitters with e same courtesy as Californians. The concern also applies to those motorists who just don’t like the law (and by implication, motorcyclists in general!).

The main answer to those who have raised concerns like this is that every change in traffic rules brings a certain amount of transition and risk and it will just have to wait to see whether other states follow California’s lead and whether the benefits of the legislation show up in crash statistics.

Texas laws on lane splitting

There is no law in Texas that specifically mentions lane splitting, but this doesn’t make the practice legal. Texas Transportation Code § 545.060 states that vehicles that are moving along on a road or highway that is divided into two or more lanes must stick to one lane and only move into another lane when safe to do so. There have been a few attempts at changing the law to make lane splitting legal, the most recently when a bill was introduced in the state Senate in February this year, but none of these attempts have come to anything.

Lane splitting and personal injury liability determination

The status of lane spitting has significance for personal injury claims by motorists if they are injured while riding between lanes of traffic because there is immediate questions raised about who was at fault. If you have been injured while lane splitting, this doesn’t mean that you cannot claim compensation from the driver who might have hit you or injured you. There may have been other reasons why that driver could have been at fault. For example, the driver was distracted because of a cell phone, or was speeding or driving dangerously. Texas personal injury law allows for shared fault as long as the degree of fault by the plaintiff is less than 50%.

If you have been injured as a motorcyclist and want to discuss your liability and whether there is a possibility of pursuing legal action against another road user, your best solution is to make an appointment with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney at the Patino Law Office in McAllen. You can contact the office at 956-631-3535.