While driving around in Florida you may have noticed bikers maneuvering their motorcycles through vehicles in traffic in order to get ahead of standstills. This is known as “lane-splitting” and it is illegal in our state according to Florida law. However, the issue isn’t always that simple. Our Panama City motorcycle accident attorney Wes Pittman explains.
What Is Lane-Splitting?
Lane splitting refers to maneuvering a motorcycle between two lanes of stopped or slowed traffic. Florida Statute 316.209 (3) reads “no person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles,” making this practice illegal throughout the state.
The only U.S. state that has legalized lane-splitting is California. Though controversial in our part of the world, lane-splitting is legal in many areas of the globe, including in Europe and Asia.
Lane-splitting is different from lane sharing, which occurs when bikers ride side by side in the same lane of traffic. Lane sharing is legal in Florida.
Is Lane-Splitting Dangerous?
Though the safety of lane-splitting is a topic of much debate, it is hard to say for sure one way or the other. Many motorists find lane-splitting to be dangerous (motorcycles seemingly appearing out of nowhere can be startling), or at the very least annoying. Many bikers, on the other hand, argue that lane-splitting is safer than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic because motorcyclists often get trapped between larger vehicles when in traffic with no escape route.
A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley found that lane-splitting is “relatively safe”—if done in traffic moving at less than 50 mph by bikers who don’t exceed the surrounding vehicles’ speed by more than 15 mph. The study also concluded that motorcyclists who practice lane splitting were less likely to suffer head or torso injuries or be killed in a crash than bikers who did not use the maneuver appropriately.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that lane-splitting is “worthy of further” study in the hopes that the practice may prove to be a means of reducing congestion in addition to introducing possible safety benefits—lane-splitting motorcycle riders are far less likely to be rear-ended by motor vehicles than bikers who don’t lane-split.
It is for these reasons that California decided to legalize lane-splitting in 2016. Not enough official data pointing one way or the other has come out to provide a definitive enough answer for most bureaucracies, however, so lane-splitting remains illegal elsewhere in the U.S.
What Are the Penalties for Lane-Splitting in Florida?
Though technically illegal, many bikers get away with lane-splitting on a regular basis, and often without consequence. If a cop does pull you over for the act, you could get a ticket of upwards of $100 (the fine varies by county). You may also be held liable for damages if an auto accident occurred while you were lane splitting.
Were you hit by a motor vehicle while lane-splitting in Florida? Or have you suffered harm when riding your motorcycle because of the negligence of another driver? Our Panama City motorcycle accident attorney has over three decades of legal experience and is equipped to handle all sorts of injury claims in Florida. Contact us now to learn more.