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Texas Motorcycle Law: Lane Splitting

Lane splitting in Texas is an often contested and wondered about practice for motorcycle riders. While it’s never safe to do in fast moving traffic, lane splitting has been made legal in one state. As motorcycle injury lawyers, it’s important to stay up-to-date on how state and local traffic laws move into law. See where lane splitting is legal in the United States.

Legislative Update: Utah’s Lane Filtering Bill Has Become Law. It Allows Motorcyclists to Travel Slowly Between Lanes

Skip ahead in this post to read about legislative updates in Utah to allow lane splitting.

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Lane splitting isn’t recognized in Texas (yet). Take caution if you choose to use lane splitting.

Co-commuting on the road with other larger vehicles such as cars and trucks is one of the biggest hazards for motorcycle riders. Next to inclement weather, other vehicles pose the largest threat to motorcyclists.

Riders sometimes refer to non-motorcycle vehicles as “cages.” While cars and most four wheel vehicles have an outer layer of protective covering, (even lined with airbags), there’s little to nothing protecting a motorcyclist in a severe crash. Being out on the road can be exhilarating. For many who seek motorcycles as a weekend holiday or their main method of transportation, riding can be a source of freedom. Fun as it is, riding comes with its own dangers and regulations.

What is lane splitting?

Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rides over the painted dashed lines in the road to pass between slow moving motor vehicles. Most often used in slow moving or stopped traffic, a motorcyclist will depart into the space between cars and travel past them in between the designated lanes for commuting. It is a practice used very regularly amongst many experienced motorcycle riders. Lane splitting cuts down on their commute time but the actual legal verification of the action varies state to state.

Is lane splitting safe?

Motorcycle rider advocates in Texas cite studies that show that lane splitting contributes to a significant reduction of rear-end rider fatalities. They argue that it can reduce rider injuries and reduce traffic congestion.

Even where motorcycle lane splitting is legal, motorcyclists are advised to take caution. Regulations prohibit the practice unless traffic is moving at a practical stand still. Read on to see where lane splitting has been legalized, and why.

Is lane splitting legal in Texas?

There are no statements made about lane splitting in Texas law. Lane splitting has not been made legal in Texas. But some Texas legislators are talking about changing that. As recently as 2017, lane splitting bills were introduced in the Texas Senate, but it isn’t the first time.

Infographic: Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Is lane splitting legal in Texas? There's a lot of confusion around this topic. The best answer is no. It's never a good idea to put yourself in a risky situation just to save time. Right now, Texas isn't among the states that have legal provisions to protect motorcyclists who use lane splitting in slow moving traffic.

Texas Lane Splitting Laws

There is a long history of lane splitting laws filed, and supported by bipartisan members of the state legislatures. However for legislation to be passed recognizing lane splitting, advocates will have to look ahead to the 2021 legislative session.

Previous Attempts at Lane Splitting Legislation in Texas

In 2017, a bill was filed in the Texas Senate Transportation Committee again by Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin. It was not voted on by the Transportation Committee. SB 288 died in the Texas Senate Transportation Committee. See the full record of the bill LegiScan.

In 2015, two separate bills were filed on both sides of the Texas legislature in 2015 (Houston Chronicle). Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview, and Texas state Senator Kirk Watson, D- Austin each filed lane-splitting bills on designated roads where traffic is moving at 20 mph or less. Neither bill made it past transportation committees as the Texas legislative session closed in 2015.

Texas is among six states to consider formally recognizing lane splitting. Other states include Utah, Nevada, California, Georgia, Washington, and Oregon.

In February the Utah House legislature passed through a piece of legislation that endorsed the practice of “lane filtering.” The legislation would allow motorcyclists to proceed to the front of traffic while waiting at an intersection. After being signed by the governor, it went into effect on May 14, 2019.

    • Under the legislation, motorcyclists would be able to use lane-splitting on roads with speed limits of less than 45 mph. It isn’t allowed on freeways.
    • The road must have two or more adjacent lanes of traffic that travel in the same direction.
    • Important: motorcyclists can only filter between stopped vehicles.
    • A motorcyclist must travel at a speed limit of 15 miles per hour or less.

The practice helps motorcyclists avoid the dangers of getting rear-ended by other drivers. In Utah between 2011 and 2017 there were 1288 rear-ends by a vehicle to a motorcycle. Unlike in cars, the motorcyclist doesn’t have the protection of a headrest or a back seat.

California was the first state to officially recognize lane splitting. In August of 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

It permits motorcyclists to ride between lanes of traffic and for California Highway Patrol to work with motorcycle safety groups to develop guidelines for best practices. Under the safety guidelines in California, riders are recommended not to engage in lane splitting when traffic is moving faster than 30 mph.

Riders in Texas are still unable to engage in lane splitting without going against current law. It may be possible for a lane splitting motorcyclist to be issued a ticket for illegal passing. If you want lane splitting to pass, consider contacting your Texas State representatives. If you aren’t sure who they are, you can find their contact information using this tool.

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If the driver is at fault, you may be able to recover the cost of hospital treatment, doctors visits, or any medical procedures. In addition you may be able to recover lost wages, vehicle repair costs, and damages from pain and suffering. Talk with a lawyer about your specific case to see what areas may apply.

At McMinn Law Firm we believe it is important for riders and drivers to be able to operate safely on Texas roadways. Education about current transportation law is part of our mission to ensure that Texas lives are not damaged by vehicle accidents.

If lane splitting does pass into Texas law in the future be sure to know how to do it safely.

In quicker moving traffic, splitting the lane to pass on a motorized bike is not advised (and illegal in all states but California) because it can cause a serious accident hazard for cars changing lanes that aren’t expecting an obstacle to remain in between the lanes.

Can motorcyclists ride side by side?

Yes. Two motorcycles may share a lane while moving in the same direction. Bikes that share a lane may be said to be riding “two abreast”. In group rides, motorcyclists may ride side-by-side. “Parade formation” occurs when all the motorcyclists traveling in a group ride two abreast.

Want to know more motorcyclist terms? You can find group riding info and safety tips here.

Motorcycle accident? McMinn Law Firm can help

Motorcycle accidents are very serious and can have life threatening injuries for victims. Negligent motor vehicle operators that don’t check their mirrors before changing lanes or fail to control their speed can easily swipe a motorcycle off the road, leaving the rider injured in a hospital or sometimes worse. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident because of a careless driver, contact McMinn Law Firm today to speak with a legal assistant about your personal injury claim.

About the author: Justin McMinn is a partner at personal injury firm, McMinn Law Firm. Since 2007, Justin has helped victims of personal injury recover the funds they need after a serious accident. Follow Justin McMinn on Justia.