In many places throughout the country, motorcyclists zoom on past other drivers by riding between lanes and gaps in traffic. However, in Texas, this practice of lane splitting or lane sharing, is illegal. California is the only state to expressly legalize lane splitting.
Motorcycle accidents can be severe and require a thorough, in-depth investigation to determine if a driver can be held liable. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, contact an attorney from Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs today. Our trial attorneys share over a century of experience. We know what it takes to win and to get the maximum compensation available in your case.
As of 2023, under Section 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code, all drivers and motorcyclists must drive within a single lane. For roadways that are divided into “two or more clearly marked lanes," motorcyclists may change lanes, but may not drive between them.
Motorcyclists who violate the transportation code by lane splitting could face citations for speeding, unsafe lane change, reckless driving, or following another vehicle too closely. If you are caught lane splitting in Texas, you could face a reckless driving fine of up to $200 and/or up to 30 days in jail. However, the most typical penalty is a $175 fine.
In 2016, former Texas Senator Kirk Watson introduced SB 288, which would have allowed motorcyclists to drive "for a safe distance between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during periods of traffic congestion."
Under SB 288, motorcyclists would have been able to legally lane split:
However, after being referred to the transportation committee, the bill died. In 2018, Senator Watson introduced a new bill (SB 273) on the senate floor. It was almost identical to SB 288 and met the same fate as its predecessor: dying in committee.
The only state that has legalized lane splitting is California. In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law, which allowed motorcycles to drive "between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane."
Lane splitting, also referred to as "white lining," remains illegal in all other states. However, some states have bills pending (or have already passed) to allow the act or similar conduct, including lane filtering and lane sharing between motorcycles.
While sometimes used interchangeably, the acts of lane splitting, lane filtering, and lane sharing describe three unique actions motorcyclists can use on a roadway.
Many states have hesitated to legalize lane splitting, lane sharing, or lane filtering due to concerns that they are unsafe for both motorcyclists and other drivers. Others argue that the benefits of permitting lane splitting outweigh the risks.
Many supporters of lane splitting argue that it not only eases congestion, but may lessen the likelihood of dangerous rear-end collisions involving motorcyclists.
Citing a 2015 study by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), those in favor of lane splitting believe that it is safe if “done in traffic moving at 50 mph (ca. 80 km/h) or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph (ca. 24 km/h).”
Berkeley researchers found that among the 6,000 motorcycle accidents reported to the California Highway Patrol, fewer than 1,000 of them involved lane splitting. The study concluded that speed was the most important factor when determining whether lane splitting was safe.
However, opponents of lane splitting argue that it can be risky at any speed and may present hazards for everyone on the road.
Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable drivers on American roadways. Unlike in a passenger vehicle, motorcyclists are completely exposed, significantly increasing the likelihood that a collision will result in serious or fatal injuries.
However, everyone agrees that increasing motorist awareness, using a helmet, and driving sober can significantly reduce the number of fatal traffic accidents.
Despite lane splitting being illegal in Texas, motorists are still obligated to only change lanes when they can do so safely. If a motorist hits a motorcyclist while changing lanes or passing another vehicle, and causes injury or death, that motorist can be held liable.
When you suffer serious injury, you need an advocate that will demand justice and be your champion in and out of the courtroom. Call Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs today at (713) 751-0025 or contact us online to book a free consultation.
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