As a motorcyclist, you might have ridden between lanes of traffic. While cars are generally not allowed to straddle lanes in this manner, motorcycles are permitted to do so (or are not expressly prohibited) in a few states.
This blog will explain these practices, called lane splitting and lane filtering, and where they are legal.
What Are Lane Splitting and Lane Filtering?
Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. Motorcyclists practicing lane splitting ride along the dividing line between lanes. This is especially useful to motorcyclists when traffic is heavy.
Lane filtering is the practice of riding one’s motorcycle between stopped or slow-moving cars. When cars are stationary or moving slowly, a motorcyclist will drive in the gaps between traffic, shifting from one lane to the other.
Where Are These Practices Legal?
Lane splitting and lane filtering are not universally accepted in the United States. Laws vary from state to state. Very few jurisdictions have explicitly made lane splitting and filtering legal.
States Where Lane Splitting is Legal
California is the only state in the U.S. where lane splitting is explicitly legal. California passed a law in 2016 that made lane splitting a legal practice. Section 21658.1 of the California Vehicle Code defines lane splitting as riding a motorcycle between rows of vehicles in the same lane, including on divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.
The state’s guidelines recommend that motorcyclists who are lane splitting do not drive more than 10 miles per hour (MPH) faster than the surrounding traffic – and only when safe.
States That Allow Lane Filtering
As of 2023, Utah, Arizona, and Montana are the only states that have passed laws making lane filtering legal.
Utah passed HB 149 in 2019, which amended several sections of the Utah Traffic Code to allow motorcyclists to filter through slow-moving traffic at a speed of up to 15 mph.
Similarly, Montana passed Senate Bill 9 in 2021, and Arizona passed SB 1273 in 2022, permitting lane filtering under limited conditions.
The Utah, Arizona, and Montana laws impose some conditions, which are fairly similar across the three states.
In Utah and Arizona, the following requirements apply (with minor variations noted below) regarding lane filtering; it’s allowed:
- On roads where there are two or more lanes moving in the same direction (not on one-way streets or on two-way streets where there is only a single lane in either direction)
- Where the speed limit is below 45 MPH
- When the surrounding cars are stopped
- When not driving on freeways
- When overtaking a car going in the same lane (Arizona)
- When not driving in the median, in the bike lane (Utah), or on the shoulder (Arizona)
Montana’s law allows motorcycles to go up to 20 miles per hour when lane filtering, but does not permit motorcycles to go more than 10 MPH faster than surrounding traffic. It does not impose the other conditions in the Arizona and Utah laws, requiring only that the lanes are wide enough and traffic and road conditions are sufficiently safe.
States Where Lane Splitting and Filtering Are Illegal
Lane splitting and filtering are illegal in the majority of U.S. states, including Minnesota. A few states do not have explicit laws pertaining to lane splitting or filtering. Motorcyclists in these states should exercise caution and follow all local laws. A handful of states, including Oregon and Massachusetts, are considering legislation regarding lane splitting.
Safety Considerations When Riding a Motorcycle
Safety is paramount when it comes to lane splitting and lane filtering. Even in states where these practices are legal, motorcyclists should take precautions to reduce the risk of accidents.
Here are some safety tips:
- Only engage in lane splitting or filtering when traffic conditions are safe. Avoid doing so at high speeds.
- Motorcycle accidents can happen, even while driving safely and following all laws. Always wear appropriate safety gear, including a helmet, gloves, and protective clothing.
- Ensure your motorcycle has working lights, and use hand signals or indicators to communicate your intentions to other drivers.
- Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles. Avoid tailgating and driving in cars’ blind spots — cars may brake-check you or fail to see you.
As always, follow the specific laws in your state and avoid negligent or reckless behaviors.
Consult a Minnesota Motorcycle Accident Lawyer After a Crash Caused By Lane Splitting or Filtering
Regardless of the legal landscape in your state, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and follow the laws that apply to motorcyclists in your area.
We are here to provide you with guidance and support when it comes to motorcycle-related legal matters. While lane splitting and filtering are not permitted in Minnesota, we understand the importance of staying informed about the laws that impact motorcyclists across the country.
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