Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas in 2020?

by Sep 29, 2020Personal Injury, Motorcycle Accidents, Texas Law

Tommy Fibich, a Houston Personal Injury lawyer

Understanding Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws in Texas

In many places throughout the country, motorcyclists zoom on past other drivers by riding between lanes and gaps in traffic. However, in Texas, this practice of lane splitting or lane sharing, is illegal. California is the only state to expressly legalize lane splitting.

Motorcycle accidents can be severe and require a thorough, in-depth investigation to determine if a driver can be held liable. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, contact an attorney from Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs today. Our trial attorneys share over a century of experience. We know what it takes to win and to get the maximum compensation available in your case. 

Lane Splitting Laws in Texas

Currently under Section 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code, all drivers and motorcyclists must drive within a single lane. For roadways that are divided into “two or more clearly marked lanes,” motorcyclists may change lanes, but may not drive between them.

If you are caught lane splitting in Texas, you could face a ticket with a fine of $175 or more. Motorcyclists who violate the transportation code by lane splitting could also face citations for speeding, unsafe lane change, reckless driving, or following another vehicle too closely.

Attempts to Legalize Lane Splitting in Texas

In 2016, former Texas Senator Kirk Watson introduced SB 288, which would have allowed motorcyclists to drive “for a safe distance between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during periods of traffic congestion.”

Under SB 288, motorcyclists would have been able to legally lane split:

  • If operating at a speed not more than five miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic, and;
  • Only during congested traffic where vehicles were moving at a speed of twenty miles per hour or less. 

However, after being referred to the transportation committee, the bill died. In 2018, Senator Watson introduced a new bill (SB 273) on the senate floor. It was almost identical to SB 288 and met the same fate as its predecessor: dying in committee.

The Only State to Legalize Lane Splitting

The only state that has legalized lane splitting is California. In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law, which allowed motorcycles to drive “between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.” 

Lane splitting, also referred to as “white lining,” remains illegal in all other states. However, some states have bills pending (or have already passed) to allow the act or similar conduct, including lane filtering and lane sharing between motorcycles.

What Is the Difference Between Lane Splitting, Lane Filtering, and Lane Sharing?

While sometimes used interchangeably, the acts of lane splitting, lane filtering, and lane sharing describe three unique actions motorcyclists can use on a roadway.

  • Lane Splitting – “Lane splitting” or “white lining” refers to operating a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. Lane splitting is illegal in Texas, while most states have no laws expressly forbidding it. California is the only state to enact a law that allows lane splitting. 
  • Lane Filtering – In 2019, Utah became the first state to allow lane filtering. As described by the Utah Department of Public Safety, a motorcyclist may move “between two lanes to the front of traffic stopped at an intersection.” In other words, when traffic is stopped at a stop sign or traffic light, a motorcyclist may travel to the front of the line.
  • Lane Sharing – The act of lane sharing allows two motorcyclists to be side-by-side or staggered in the same lane. In Texas, two motorcyclists may legally share a lane, positioned side-by-side.

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

Many states have hesitated to legalize lane splitting, lane sharing, or lane filtering due to concerns that they are unsafe for both motorcyclists and other drivers. Others argue that the benefits of permitting lane splitting outweigh the risks.

Arguments in Favor of Lane Splitting

Many supporters of lane splitting argue that it not only eases congestion, but may lessen the likelihood of dangerous rear-end collisions involving motorcyclists.

Citing a 2015 study by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), those in favor of lane splitting believe that it is safe if “done in traffic moving at 50 mph (ca. 80 km/h) or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph (ca. 24 km/h).” 

Berkeley researchers found that among the 6,000 motorcycle accidents reported to the California Highway Patrol, fewer than 1,000 of them involved lane splitting. The study concluded that speed was the most important factor when determining whether lane splitting was safe. 

Arguments Against Lane Splitting

However, opponents of lane splitting argue that it can be risky at any speed and may present hazards for everyone on the road.

Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable drivers on American roadways. Unlike in a passenger vehicle, motorcyclists are completely exposed, significantly increasing the likelihood that a collision will result in serious or fatal injuries. 

However, everyone agrees that increasing motorist awareness, using a helmet, and driving sober can significantly reduce the number of fatal traffic accidents.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? Contact Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs for a Free Consultation.

Despite lane splitting being illegal in Texas, motorists are still obligated to only change lanes when they can do so safely. If a motorist hits a motorcyclist while changing lanes or passing another vehicle, and causes injury or death, that motorist can be held liable. 

When you suffer serious injury, you need an advocate that will demand justice and be your champion in and out of the courtroom. Call Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs today at (713) 751-0025 or contact us online to book a free consultation.