Will Lane Splitting Ever be Legal in Florida?

Lane splitting is illegal in almost every state in the United States despite continuing efforts to reform current traffic laws.  California recently legalized lane splitting after realizing that many of the benefits enjoyed by both drivers and motorcycle riders far outweigh any safety concerns. In this article, I will explain the pros and cons of lane splitting and allow you to decide whether Florida should allow it.

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting, or lane filtering, occurs when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of slower moving vehicles as depicted in the image below.  Although many, if not all, riders in Florida regularly split lanes while driving through heavily congested traffic, it is still illegal under Florida Statute 316.209.  It can be ticketed as a non-criminal traffic citation.  However, a police officer or trooper may cite the rider with careless driving or even criminal reckless driving under certain conditions involving higher speeds.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Riders who are involved in accidents while lane splitting are often cited by responding police officers and presumed to be at-fault for causing the collision even though the accident was the other driver’s fault.  Florida is a comparative fault state—meaning that rider’s liability may be reduced by the amount that the other driver’s negligence contributed to causing the accident.

The presumption of negligence does not stop a motorcyclist from filing a claim against any other negligent party who contributed to the crash. The motorcyclist or other witnesses to the crash will need to show that the other driver’s actions caused the crash.  The other driver could have been distracted by their cell phone, failed to use their turning signal, recklessly weaved between lanes, or driven in any other careless manner that may have contributed to the crash. A hardworking personal injury lawyer can investigate the crash and find witnesses and other evidence that corroborate the rider’s version of how the crash happened.

What are the benefits of Lane Splitting?

The many advocates of lane splitting argue that it is safer, more efficient, and even better for the environment.  Here are some of the most compelling arguments in favor:

Safer for motorcycle riders

Motorcycle riders can remove themselves from the very dangerous position behind stopped vehicles and place themselves between two larger vehicles.  This helps reduce the likelihood that the motorcycle will be rear-ended.  After all, rear-end collisions are the most common type of accident.  According to the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center University of California Berkeley lane-splitting riders involved in accidents are much less likely to suffer serious injuries than motorcycle riders involved in other types of accidents.  The numbers are staggering:

  • Only 9 percent of riders involved in accidents while lane splitting suffers head injuries while 17 percent of riders involved in other types of motorcycle accidents do.
  • 19 percent of riders involved in accidents while lane splitting suffers torso injuries while 17 percent of riders involved in other types of motorcycle accidents do.
  • 2 percent of riders involved in line splitting accidents end up dead whereas 3 percent of riders involved in other types of accidents die.

Reduces traffic congestion

Allowing motorcyclists to ride in between cars greatly reduces the number of vehicles occupying each lane by creating an extra flow for motorcycle traffic. This helps traffic move along much quicker and more efficiently while saving both drivers and riders time on the road.

Reduces air pollution

Vehicle emissions are a leading source of air pollutants.  Traffic levels have increased exponentially over the last 20 years.  Higher levels of traffic mean longer travel times. Unfortunately, longer travel times equate to greater levels of vehicle emissions. These dangerous emissions can be reduced by allowing motorcycles to travel more efficiently on our highways and reduce traffic.

Beats the heat and rain

Florida, especially South Florida, is hot and humid almost year-round. While most people sitting in traffic enjoy the luxury of air-conditioned vehicles, bikers are forced to endure the elements.  Many riders cannot tolerate riding in stand-still traffic when temperatures become unbearably hot.  If lane splitting is legalized, bikers will no longer be forced to choose between overheating or being soaked while sitting in traffic for extended periods of time and breaking the law to get to their destination sooner.

Why can it be dangerous?

Lane splitting can be dangerous just as any other type of driving or riding maneuver.  Some of the greatest risks and dangers include:

  • Motorcyclists can easily be struck by cars suddenly changing lanes, especially when other drivers fail to use turning signals. The rider’s safety will depend on the actions of the drivers in traffic. For example, the sudden and untimely opening of a driver door can lead to devastating consequences.
  • Drivers will take time to get used to watching motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles pass by them in traffic. Most drivers are easily irritated when motorcyclists engage in illegal lane splitting and often take preventative measures.
  • Many drivers try to prevent motorcycles splitting cars by positioning their vehicle in a way that blocks the motorcycle from passing.
  • Can be very dangerous at high rates of speed as reaction times are greatly reduced.

What about Lane Sharing?

Lane sharing occurs when two motorcycles occupy the same lane of traffic parallel to one another.  This type of riding is legal in Florida and most other states. However, the law prohibits more than two bikes from occupying a single lane at the same time.  Lane splitting is not necessarily the safest riding practice but should be enjoyed by skilled riders who ride with confidence.

Conclusion

Florida should legalize lane splitting.  The positive effects on on the flow of traffic and the environment far outweigh any safety concerns that it poses.

If you or a loved one has been injured while riding a motorcycle, contact The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked to speak to a Miami motorcycle accident lawyer who is familiar with the motorcycle laws in Florida and knows how to work them to your benefit.  We appreciate the struggles that motorcyclists need to overcome when pursuing injury claims and do everything in our power to help you obtain the compensation that you need and deserve. We offer free consultations 7 days a week and can always be reached at (305) 690-0244.

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