If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, you know how controversial lane splitting is. That’s why true lane splitting is only legal in the state of California due to its high-risk nature for motorcyclists and other drivers. Unfortunately, drivers don’t always see motorcyclists while on the road, putting them at risk of getting injured.
While lane splitting isn’t legal in Arizona or Utah, lane filtering is. But it’s only allowed under certain conditions. If you live in either of these states, you need to know what rules to follow before hitting the road to stay safe.
If you were injured in a lane filtering accident in Arizona or Utah due to another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation. At Esquire Law, our lawyers are specially trained to handle motorcycle accident cases so people like you can get the compensation you deserve. You can count on us to achieve the results you want.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting—also known as white-lining, stripe-riding, or filtering—is a traffic maneuver in which a two-wheeled vehicle rides between slow-moving or stopped traffic traveling in the same direction. This maneuver is typically practiced by motorcyclists and occurs most often in congested traffic or at intersections.
In regions where lane splitting is legal, motorcyclists can ride between lanes to move ahead of traffic, potentially reducing their travel time and exposure to the risk of rear-end collisions. The legality varies between states and even between jurisdictions in the same state. Some places explicitly permit or regulate it, while others prohibit the practice altogether.
The Implications of Lane Splitting
Here are the main arguments for and against lane splitting in Arizona and Utah.
Arguments in Favor of Lane Splitting
- Traffic Efficiency: Proponents of the practice argue that splitting lanes can reduce traffic congestion by letting motorcycles move through slow-moving or stopped traffic, potentially decreasing the travel time for motorcyclists and other drivers.
- Reduced Rear-End Collisions: Supporters also claim that lane splitting can decrease the risk and occurrence of rear-end collisions motorcyclists are involved in. In heavy traffic, motorcycles are more vulnerable to being struck from behind. Splitting lanes enables them to minimize and even avoid this danger.
- Fuel Efficiency and Emissions: Some argue that by allowing motorcyclists to move more freely through congested traffic, they can operate more efficiently, potentially leading to reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
Arguments Against Lane Splitting
- Safety Concerns: Opponents often express safety concerns, suggesting that lane splitting may actually increase the risk of accidents. Drivers might not anticipate motorcycles passing between lanes, leading to potential collisions.
- Risk of Injury: Critics argue that in the event of an accident—especially those occurring at higher speeds—the consequences for a motorcyclist involved in a lane-splitting collision could be more severe than if they were riding within a designated lane.
- Legal and Enforcement Challenges: Some argue that legalizing and regulating lane splitting can be challenging, as it may be difficult to define specific conditions under which it’s a safe and appropriate maneuver.
Lane-Splitting Laws in Arizona
Arizona’s Motorcycle Lane Filtering Law
Here is Arizona’s lane-splitting law as of September 2022.
“The operator of a two-wheeled motorcycle may overtake and pass another vehicle that is stopped in the same direction of travel and in the same lane as the operator and may operate the motorcycle between lanes of traffic if the movement may be made safely and if the operator does both of the following:
- Operates the motorcycle on a street that both:
(a) Is divided into at least two adjacent traffic lanes in the same direction of travel.
(b) Has a speed limit that does not exceed forty-five miles per hour.
- Travels at a speed that does not exceed fifteen miles per hour.”
Conditions Under Which Lane Filtering Is Permissible in Arizona
Lane filtering is legal in Arizona but only under certain conditions.
- Only two-wheeled motorcycles without a sidecar can lane filter
- It can only occur on residential streets, not highways
- It can only occur when traffic is stopped
- The motorcyclist cannot travel more than 15mph
The Distinction Between Lane Filtering and Lane Splitting in Arizona
Lane filtering is when a motorcyclist maneuvers between stopped lanes of traffic at no more than 15mph to reach the front. This practice typically takes place at congested intersections.
Lane splitting is technically only legal in California. Motorcyclists can travel between vehicles on highways during heavy traffic.
Lane-Splitting Laws in Utah
Utah’s Motorcycle Lane Filtering Law
Like Arizona, Utah allows lane filtering but not true lane splitting. These are the parameters set out by the state legislature for motorcyclists.
- The road must have two or more lanes traveling in the same direction
- The speed limit cannot exceed 45 mph
- The motorcyclist cannot exceed 15 mph when engaging in the maneuver
- The maneuver can only occur in stopped traffic
Click here to learn more about Utah’s new lane filtering law.
The Trial Period and Study of Lane Filtering Effects in Utah
Utah enacted a three-year lane filtering trial in 2019 to study the effects of lane filtering on road safety. The trial was extended until 2027 to allow more time for investigation.
Differences Between Utah’s Lane-Filtering and Lane-Splitting Laws
The same distinctions apply to lane filtering and lane splitting in Utah as they do in Arizona. Lane filtering occurs when a motorcyclist passes between two lanes of stopped traffic at no more than 15mph on a residential road. Lane splitting—which is only legal in California—occurs when a motorcyclist passes between two lanes of heavy traffic on a highway.
Safety and Legal Implications
Lane splitting plays a nuanced role in motorcycle safety, presenting both potential advantages and challenges. Advocates argue that by letting motorcyclists move through slow-moving or stopped traffic, they decrease their risk of being involved in rear-end collisions with other vehicles. Advocates also claim splitting lanes enhances overall traffic flow and decreases a motorcyclist’s exposure to certain hazards in congested areas.
However, concerns revolve around the need for heightened driver awareness, safe speed differentials, and the importance of a well-defined legal framework to ensure responsible practices. The role of lane splitting in motorcycle safety is contingent on factors such as effective regulation, education, and responsible riding behavior to strike a balance between the potential benefits and associated risks.
Motorcyclists should only practice lane splitting in jurisdictions where it’s allowed and abide by any regulations in place. A motorcyclist who breaks a law could face one or more of the following consequences:
- Traffic Violation Citations: Improper lane splitting may result in traffic violation citations or fines. The specific penalty can vary depending on what jurisdiction it takes place in and how severe the infraction is.
- Points on Driving Record: In some places, traffic violations are associated with points on a driver’s record. Your license can be suspended or even revoked if you get too many points within a short time period.
- Increased Insurance Premiums: Convictions for traffic violations, including improper lane splitting, may lead to higher insurance premiums because most insurance companies view motorists with one or more traffic violations as being high risk.
- Mandatory Traffic School: In certain cases, individuals who are cited for improper lane splitting may be required to attend traffic school. The motorist may have their penalties reduced or points on their driving record expunged upon completing traffic school.
- Vehicle Impoundment: In some jurisdictions, law enforcement may impound the motorcycle or the vehicle involved in the improper lane-splitting incident. Vehicle impoundment is typically reserved for more severe or repeated violations.
- Suspended or Revoked License: Serious or repeated violations of traffic laws, including unsafe lane splitting, may lead to the suspension or revocation of the individual’s driver’s license.
- Legal Liability for Accidents: If improper lane splitting results in a collision or accident, the motorcyclist may be held legally liable for any damages or injuries caused. This could involve legal consequences beyond traffic citations, including civil liability.
- Criminal Charges: In extreme cases, where improper lane splitting leads to severe consequences, such as injury or death, criminal charges such as reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter may be pursued.
Motorcyclists can take several steps to protect themselves legally while engaging in lane splitting, ensuring they adhere to local traffic laws and minimize the risk of legal consequences. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Follow Local Laws: Get to know the lane-splitting laws and regulations in your area. Laws vary between jurisdictions, so it’s important to understand the rules, conditions, and speed differentials that may apply.
- Maintain a Safe Speed: Adhere to a safe and reasonable speed while splitting lanes. Traveling at an excessive speed puts you, other motorists, and pedestrians at risk. Not to mention, they can have serious legal consequences. Stay within the speed limits specified by local regulations.
- Take Caution in Congested Traffic: Lane splitting is often most relevant in heavy traffic. Exercise heightened caution in congested areas, be aware of the surrounding vehicles, and avoid engaging in maneuvers that could be perceived as reckless.
- Use Signals and Lights: Use turn signals when splitting lanes so other motorists know your intentions. This helps alert other road users to your movements, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or accidents.
- Choose Appropriate Conditions: Be selective about when to lane split. Choose conditions that are conducive to safe splitting, such as slow-moving or stopped traffic, and avoid splitting lanes in situations with limited visibility or hazardous road conditions.
- Stay Visible: Remain visible to other drivers at all times. Increased visibility reduces the risk of other drivers not noticing you while splitting lanes.
- Be Predictable: Make your actions predictable to other road users. Avoid sudden or erratic movements, and maintain a consistent and controlled riding style. Predictability helps prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts.
- Continuously Scan Your Surroundings: Stay vigilant, and continuously scan your surroundings. Anticipate other drivers’ next moves, and be prepared for changing conditions on the road. Doing so can help you avoid the common risks of splitting lanes.
- Take Motorcycle Safety Courses: Consider enrolling in motorcycle safety courses that cover not only riding skills but also legal and ethical considerations. These courses can enhance your overall understanding of safe riding practices.
Navigate Lane-Splitting Laws with Guidance From Esquire Law
If you can’t tell by now, lane splitting and lane filtering laws are complicated. They differ between states and even between jurisdictions in the same state. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, contacting Esquire Law for legal help is the best way to determine fault and secure compensation for your losses. Our Arizona and Utah motorcycle accident lawyers are ready to take on your case. Contact us today to claim your free case evaluation.