Lane splitting is a controversial motorcycling technique in which a motorcyclist rides on the line between two lanes of same-direction traffic on a highway with two or more lanes moving in the same direction. Arguments for lane splitting believe it can reduce traffic congestion and improve motorcyclist safety. Arguments against lane splitting say it is a dangerous practice that could lead to more traffic accidents. Currently, the law in Texas – as in all states except California – forbids lane splitting.
How Dangerous is Lane Splitting?
In 2016, the state of California became the first to allow motorcyclists to ride between lanes. Lane splitting, or lane-filtering, was a previously an illegal practice under California law. The state voted to erase language banning lane-splitting, however, to become neutral on the subject. California did not technically legalize lane splitting, but it no longer penalizes motorcyclists for doing it, either. Today, California remains the only state to have passed such laws. Motorcyclists cannot lawfully lane split in any other state.
The decision to remove the language banning lane splitting in California came after a Berkeley study in 2015 concluded lane splitting was safe if done at reasonable speeds. The study analyzed 6,000 traffic accidents – 997 of which involved lane splitting motorcyclists. Researchers found most riders involved in lane splitting accidents were traveling too fast for conditions. They concluded that with heightened safety awareness and prudence, motorcyclists could ride between lanes with reasonable safety.
The study convinced California lawmakers to pass bills allowing lane splitting. In other states, however, lawmakers remain against this practice. The main argument against legalizing lane-splitting in Texas is safety. Many citizens and lawmakers fear legalizing lane splitting in Texas will increase the number of motorcycle accidents, injuries and deaths. People have expressed concerns about motorcycle speeds, lane changes, motorcycle visibility and motorcyclists startling surrounding drivers. Despite the results of the Berkeley study, lane splitting accidents can and do still occur. This fact worries lawmakers in Texas enough to vote against all proposed lane splitting bills to date.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?
Lane-splitting remains illegal in Texas. Transportation Code Section 545.060 states that motorcyclists, moped riders and bicyclists cannot ride adjacent to motor vehicles in the same lane, nor can they ride between two rows of vehicles. Lane splitting is an illegal motorcycle maneuver that could result in traffic fines and citations. Several bills aiming to legalize lane-splitting in Texas have brought the matter to lawmakers’ attention, but so far none have passed. Advocates for lane-splitting in Texas have begun a petition to push for votes on state lane-splitting bills. The petition cites several reasons to support lane splitting.
- The petition references a few different sources to help establish that lane splitting has a low incident rate and that is it safe for motorcyclists. The petition says it is safer for motorcyclists than traditional driving since it could prevent motorcyclists from getting trapped between two vehicles.
- Traffic relief. The petition expresses the traffic benefits of lane splitting, explaining motorcycles can exit highways faster and decrease the number of vehicles on the road. It also states the importance of getting motorcyclists out of the hot Texas sun faster – an issue that has caused problems such as motorcycles overheating and rider heatstroke in the past.
- Environmental benefits. The petition explains that less time idling in congested traffic is good for the environment. It reduces fuel emissions. The petition also says lane splitting could encourage more people to switch to motorcycles, which are more fuel-efficient than cars.
Despite many people pushing to legalize lane-splitting, Texas lawmakers have yet to legalize the practice as of 2019. The latest bill that could legalize lane splitting in Texas is State Bill 273, which would allow a motorcyclist to drive between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during traffic congestion. Under this law, a lane splitting motorcyclist could not exceed five miles per hour over the speed of the surrounding vehicles, and never exceed 25 miles per hour. Time will tell if this bill will follow its predecessors and fail…or if Texas will become the second state to permit lane splitting.