May 5, 2023
Motorcycle Accident

Lane splitting and filtering refers to riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction or filtering through slow-moving or stopped traffic. This is a common practice among motorcyclists and is perceived as a way to beat traffic and avoid congestion.

However, under Alabama law, motorcycle riders in Alabama are prohibited from lane splitting and filtering in the state. Understanding the legality of lane splitting and filtering can help prevent dangerous accidents and costly insurance claims.

What is Lane Splitting and Filtering?

Lane splitting and filtering are two different practices that involve riding a motorcycle between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.

Lane splitting is when a rider operates their motorcycle between two lanes of traffic that are moving at a higher speed, such as on a freeway or highway. Filtering, on the other hand, involves riding a motorcycle between slow-moving or stopped traffic, such as at a traffic light or in a traffic jam. This practice is common in states where it is legal, such as Montana and Arizona.

Motorcycle riders engage in these practices to navigate through traffic more efficiently. It allows them to avoid traffic jams, reducing travel time and increasing safety by avoiding rear-end collisions.

Why is it Illegal in Some States But Legal in Others?

Individual state laws determine the legality of lane splitting and filtering. States that allow lane splitting typically have specific guidelines and rules for how and when it can be done.

While lane splitting is permitted in some states, only California has a law explicitly allowing it. Lane filtering is legal in Hawaii, Utah, Arizona, and Montana, which have specific rules for when motorcycle riders may use the technique.

Most states, including Alabama, Florida, and Texas, outlaw lane splitting and filtering, citing safety concerns and arguing it can be dangerous for motorcyclists and drivers.

The NHTSA advocates for more research on lane splitting, indicating that some evidence shows that the practice can reduce crash frequency and offers an escape for motorcyclists stuck behind slow-moving cars.

A 2015 study at UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center found that lane splitting is relatively safe at 50 mph or lower speeds when the rider does not exceed 15 mph when passing another vehicle. It also found that when compared with other motorcycle riders in a crash, lane-splitting resulted in less likelihood of a head, torso, or fatal injury.

However, some studies, such as a 2017 study on powered two-wheelers, show that lane-splitting increased a rider’s risk of injury by a magnitude of four.

The Legality of Lane Splitting and Filtering in Alabama

In Alabama, the legality of lane splitting and filtering is determined by the state’s traffic laws. Section 32-5A-242 (c) of the Alabama Code prohibits motorcycle operation between traffic lanes or adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.

Alabama is also one of a handful of states that follow the doctrine of contributory negligence in personal injury cases. Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff is found to be even 1% at fault for their injuries, they may be barred from recovering any damages from the defendant.

This means that lane splitting and filtering are illegal in Alabama, and motorcyclists caught lane splitting or filtering can be ticketed and fined. They may also be held liable for any accidents or injuries resulting from their actions. This means they cannot receive compensation for damages from other motorists or parties involved in the accident, even if those parties were also negligent.

Alternatives to Lane Splitting and Filtering Safely

Lane splitting and filtering can be an effective way for motorcycles to navigate through traffic. However, due to Alabama’s traffic laws, it is not legal. Some alternatives to lane splitting and filtering include:

  • Plan your route: Before you start your trip, plan your route to avoid areas with heavy traffic.
  • Time your trip: Avoid rush hour traffic by adjusting your schedule. If possible, leave earlier or later to avoid the busiest times of the day.
  • Use carpool lanes: In some areas, motorcycles can use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes even when riding alone. While federal laws allow motorcycles to use HOV lanes, check your local laws before using these lanes.
  • Be patient: Sometimes, it is best to be patient and wait for traffic to clear. If you’re stuck in traffic, take a deep breath and relax. Don’t rush and put yourself in danger.

Contact a Lawyer if You are Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

Lane splitting and filtering are illegal practices in Alabama and can result in fines and legal liabilities for motorcyclists who engage in them. To ensure that your rights are protected and understand your legal options if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.

At The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we have a team of skilled Alabama motorcycle accident attorneys who can provide you with the guidance and representation you need to navigate the legal system. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in Alabama, contact us today for a free consultation.

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