Splitting lanes – the practice of going between cars moving slowly or at a standstill while riding a motorcycle – has been a common technique used by motorcyclists for years. Lane splitting is convenient, faster and some argue safer. But what does Texas law say about lane splitting? Well, not much, at least not yet. Texas legislators are trying to get bills passed that would address the question of lane splitting directly. Until then, riders will need to be aware of how Texas law treats lane splitting to avoid breaking the law.
If you split lanes in Texas, a police officer can technically pull you over and issue a citation. According to current Texas law, a vehicle must use a defined lane to pass another vehicle, and no exceptions are made for motorcycles. A San Antonio news station even interviewed a police officer to get an answer straight from someone writing tickets, and he said much the same thing. When a motorcycle drives between lanes to pass another vehicle, the operator is committing a violation.
Motorcycle groups all across the country advocate for changes to state laws in relation to lane splitting, and Texas is no exception. Motorcyclists state that lane splitting is not just a way to skip traffic, it is actually safer for motorcyclists – leading to far fewer rear-end fatalities. Instead of sitting and waiting where they are most vulnerable, with a car in front and a car behind, motorcyclists keep moving and flow through the available space created by cars in standard lanes.
California’s weather makes motorcycle riding a popular pastime, which may explain why the state is the first in the nation to conduct in-depth studies on lane splitting and to pass laws specific to the practice. Research conducted by the state found that lane splitting can be done safely, which encouraged legislators to write laws allowing lane splitting throughout California.
Texas lawmakers have made several attempts to pass laws concerning lane splitting. In 2015 both sides of the aisle put forward bills related to lane splitting, one bill from Republicans and one bill from Democrats. Unfortunately, neither bill made it into law.
The practice of lane splitting has been going on for a long time, and riders will likely continue to split lanes for as long motorcycles exist. But the lack of specific laws related to lane splitting make it difficult for law enforcement, motorcyclists and everyday motorists to know how to approach lane splitting. The lack of clarity means that everyone could benefit from laws recognizing and regulating lane splitting. Law enforcement and motorists can get valuable information and instructions on the practice, while motorcyclists can make sure they are not breaking the law when they ride.
California demonstrates the benefits that come from government engagement in the topic of lane splitting. While lane splitting does appear to be safe under certain circumstances, there are safer ways to do it and ways that are less safe. Splitting lanes in stopped traffic, stop and go traffic and traffic traveling 30 mph or slower appears to be relatively safe, which is why California recommends that riders only split lanes under such conditions.
Texas can take the same approach, either building on California’s law and recommendations or conducting its own research to determine recommended safety guidelines. Once Texas gives clear instructions on lane splitting, it can be done safely and legally by any rider that feels comfortable doing so.
At CPM Injury Law, P.C., we represent motorcycle accident victims in Austin, San Antonio and throughout Texas. We understand and appreciate how vulnerable you are when riding, and we are here to stand up for your rights when someone’s negligence causes you injury.
Please contact us today to discuss your motorcycle accident. Let us put our experience to work on your case.