Riding a motorcycle can be a fun and fuel-efficient way to travel. But it isn’t always the safest way. While they are extremely nimble, they also have a small profile, which can result in motorcycle accidents.
Some states have legalized practices like lane splitting or lane filtering that may make driving a motorcycle safer in situations with a lot of traffic. These laws are currently only found in a few states, though.
Differences Between Lane Splitting and Lane Filtering
Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides along the center line of a multi-lane road. It can done regardless of the speed of traffic but only when the lanes being split are going in the same direction. This practice effectively creates additional lanes for motorcycles at any driving speed.
Lane filtering is similar to lane splitting, but it refers to riding between stopped or very slow-moving cars. While lane filtering, a motorcyclist rides at slow speeds to advance through traffic congestion, such as in front of a stoplight or in a traffic jam.
States Where Lane Splitting and Filtering Are Legal
Lane splitting or filtering is legal in just a few states.
California is one state where lane splitting is legal. The California Highway Patrol recommends that motorcycle riders use lane splitting between the far left lanes because it is the safest place to do this.
In 2021, Montana passed a law that allows lane filtering. Other traffic can’t be traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, and the motorcycle rider can’t be traveling faster than 20 miles per hour. It also isn’t allowed if weather conditions make it unsafe.
Finally, lane filtering is also legal in Utah. Motorcycle riders can’t be traveling more than 15 miles per hour, and lane filtering is never legal on any road with a posted speed limit higher than 45 miles per hour (which means it isn’t legal on any freeways). Additionally, motorcycles may not travel in bicycle lanes.
While lane splitting and lane filtering are both illegal in Hawaii, the state does offer an alternative option for passing traffic on a motorcycle. When there is heavy traffic, motorcycle riders may ride on the shoulder of the road at slow speeds.
Dangers of Lane Filtering and Splitting
Lane filtering is generally pretty safe because it can only be done when cars are traveling slowly or stopped. However, there is still some danger to both activities. People who are lane splitting should be particularly wary of distracted drivers. They are more likely to swerve in their lane and hit a motorcycle passing them.
Additionally, drivers should never lane split near large vehicles like commercial trucks. They block the visibility of the rider, and the drivers of those vehicles are unlikely to be aware of motorcycles driving near them.
While lane splitting or filtering is currently legal in only three states, many states have recently introduced bills to make the activity legal. Some are still waiting to be acted on, while others eventually failed. Still, similar bills will likely pass within the next decade.
Drive Safely And Know The Laws
While many safety experts say that lane splitting and filtering are safe, few state laws have caught up. If you drive a motorcycle, know the laws of the state you are in and obey them to stay safe and avoid getting ticketed.