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Two laws in the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) make lane splitting illegal
One law prohibits a motorcyclist from passing another vehicle in the same lane. The other law prohibits riding a motorcycle between lanes or vehicles.
- NYS VTL § 1252 (b) states, “The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.”
- NYS VTL § 1252 (c) states, “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
One State Where Lane Splitting Is Legal
California has gone through stages of lane splitting legality. Prior to 2013, it wasn’t specifically prohibited but a motorcyclist could have been ticketed for another violation such as improper passing, changing lane unsafely or reckless driving which are violations in NY. In 2013, the California Highway Patrol issued guidelines for allowable lane splitting, for which they would not issue a summons. On January 1, 2017, a law went into effect making lane splitting, with some limitations, legal.
States Where Lane Splitting Is Not Illegal
According to the Motorcycle Legal Foundation, there is no law in the following 12 states which prohibit lane splitting: Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and DC.
Lane Splitting in Other Countries
Lane splitting is legal in Europe and Asia.
Arguments in Favor of Lane Splitting
— Less time in traffic for car drivers & reduced carbon emissions: Wired.com reported that a 2012 study by Belgian research firm Transport & Mobility Leuven found replacing 10% of cars with motorcycles would cut time stuck in traffic by 63% for all drivers including cars and cut carbon emissions by 6%, due to smoother traffic flow.
— Safety: Motorcycle safety consultant Steve Guderian wrote in an August 2011 study, “Seemingly counter-intuitive, traffic filtering is actually a viable safety technique that removes the motorcycle and rider from the danger spot behind a stopped car, and places the motorcycle into the more secure safety envelope that is created between two larger vehicles.”
— Prevents motorcycle engine overheating.
Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is a Partner at FRANCKEL & PLEVY, LLP Accident Attorneys at 1-800-HURT-911®; Rated 10 by Avvo; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5 star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel is well known in New York for representing motorcyclists and created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®. Mr. Franckel is also President of 1-800-HURT-911, Inc. and publishes LawyerAdvertisingBlog.com