Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?

4

 

If you were wondering ‘is lane splitting legal in Texas?’, the short answer is very simple, but there are a lot of things to discuss regarding this aspect. What exactly does this mean, what does it involve, why do some people suggest it should be legal, and why do others contradict them and say it should be illegal?

It’s a pretty broad topic, although you wouldn’t think so but like so many notions out there, this one tends to be just as divisive among groups, for various reasons. Let’s take a look at what makes this such a controversial topic, what the sides of the arguments are, and what seems to be the future for lane splitting in Texas.

Lane splitting is a rather contested practice for motorcycle riders when it comes to the state of Texas. While it’s considered to be dangerous if done in fast-moving traffic, lane splitting has started to enter legality slowly, in some states of the US, while others still oppose it – but will this be only a matter of time?

As of now, lane splitting isn’t legal in the state of Texas, so if you choose this method, you may get in trouble. Still, riding side by side with cars or trucks is a big problem for motorcycle riders, especially since after bad weather, the biggest cause of accidents for motorcyclists is represented by other vehicles.

A slang used by motorcycle riders to talk about vehicles that aren’t motorcycles is “cage”, for pretty obvious reasons. As a car has protective covering on all sides, that can’t be said about motorcycles, so in case there is a crash happening, a car (complete with airbags) is going to be less affected by that, compared to a motorcycle.

When you are out on the road, you can feel completely free, even more so when you are riding a motorcycle. People who ride them to get away from the crowd during a weekend or during a holiday naturally hate the idea of being stuck in traffic with trucks and family cars, when they could just continue their trip.

 

What does lane splitting refer to?

Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle over painted dashed lines on the road in order to get past the other vehicles around that are moving too slow. This is a practice most common when the traffic is really slow or has completely stopped. In this case, the rider will get in the space between cars and go past them.

The practice is more common when we talk about motorcycle riders who have some sort of experience riding their bikes. In theory, lane splitting could cut down much of the time taken in order to get from one place to another, yet the legal implications of it are now debated heatedly.

 

Is this a safe practice?

People in Texas who wish for lane splitting to be made legal have offered as proof various studies that show this practice is a big contributor to reducing the rear-end fatalities among riders. Aside from reducing the number of fatalities, the overall safety of the rider is improved, while congestion of the traffic is also reduced.

Still, even in areas in which lane splitting is legal under the law, motorcycle riders are advised to not do it when the traffic is at full speed; instead, it’s recommended that it should be done only when the traffic is moving really slow or has come to a complete halt, as the risk of accidents is lower then.

 

Will it be legal?

As of now, lane splitting is still not legal in the state of Texas, but many people are fighting to change that. Even in 2017, there were lane splitting bills that were sent to the Texas Senate, with no success, but that isn’t the first time that this has happened here, as people have been fighting for a change for quite some time.

In 2015, Rep. Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Palmview, and Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, both worked on lane splitting bills. These bills mentioned that this practice should be made legal on several roads, in the case that the traffic was moving at a speed of maximum 20 mph or below that. The bills didn’t pass.

The bills haven’t even reached the transportation committees since the Texas legislative session had closed in 2015. Kirk Watson tried again, later, but even if this time it managed to reach the Transportation Committee, the bill didn’t pass the Texas Senate Transportation Committee, so the fight continues.

Still, it is worth noting that Texas is one of the few states that have taken into consideration formally recognizing lane splitting. Some of the other states that make the list are California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, which is a step forward and it shows that people are working on a change.

Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have had legalizing bills filed, but the bills didn’t get to be passed, so lane splitting is still illegal in those states, though exceptions can be made for police motorcycles.

Meanwhile, California has made lane splitting legal in 2016, while Utah legalized lane filtering in 2019. Alaska, Florida, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alabama, and South Carolina have this practice as illegal.

Just like Utah, Hawaii also passed a bill in which lane splitting is legal, as long as many limitations are respected. The bill was submitted in 2018, and was supposed to take effect on the 1st of January 2019. This was the third time such a bill had been submitted in Hawaii. Still, the change has yet to be made.

 

California and Utah

In February of 2019, the Utah House legislature presented a piece of legislation which aimed to let motorcycle riders get to the front of the traffic line when they are waiting at an intersection. This was signed by the governor, and it finally went into effect starting with May 14th of the same year.

Unlike California, this bill has several limitations. In this case, you are not allowed to do lane splitting on a freeway, but you can on a road with a limit speed of below 45 mph. The road also must have at least two adjacent lanes of traffic that go in the same direction, and you must have a speed of less than 15 mph as a motorcyclist.

This practice aims to help motorcycle riders to avoid being rear-ended by vehicle drivers. In the state of Utah, just between the start of the decade and 2017, there were 1288 cases of rear-endings of a motorcycle by some sort of other vehicles. This is rather dangerous, as motorcyclists don’t benefit from huge protection while they ride.

The first state in the US to recognize lane splitting officially is California, after Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill in August 2016. This law lets a motorcycle rider go between lanes of traffic as long as the traffic is not moving above 30 mph. This has helped the famous California traffic jams quite a lot, we can say.

 

What does the future hold?

First of all, if line splitting becomes legal, don’t forget to always make sure you do it as safely as possible. If the traffic is moving fast, the chances of an accident are much higher, as drivers won’t expect to suddenly see some obstacle in front of them, especially one that is between the lanes.

As of now, you can ride side by side with another motorcycle on the same lane, if you are both going in the same direction, obviously. If we are talking about a larger group of motorcycles, then you are still required to go side by side, and not in larger numbers next to each other, to prevent any accidents.

It is very likely that, at some point in the future, lane splitting will also become legal in Texas. First, we have the fact that people have already tried to make it legal. While the results didn’t go as planned, it shows initiative, and it’s highly likely that this practice will soon have more supporters.

Outside of the United States of America, across Europe and Asia, lane splitting is not only legal, but it’s actually encouraged in many countries. The UK, Spain, and Italy are just some of these countries. Exceptions are Germany which only allows it in certain conditions, Portugal, and a few others.

Canada doesn’t make it very clear if it’s illegal or in what situations, while only two states in Australia have yet to make lane splitting legal, which is sort of funny when you realize that the two states that have yet to join the others are the ones with the lowest population numbers, so we assume even there it’s just a matter of time until things change.

 

 

SHARE