Answer: Lane splitting is not legal in New York. But if you were injured in a motorcycle accident while lane splitting, you can still get money for your injuries even though it’s illegal in New York.
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.”
Where Is Lane Splitting Legal?
California and Utah permit lane splitting. Some other states (see below) do not prohibit lane splitting.
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 lanes unsafely, or reckless driving which are also 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.
Lane splitting is prohibited when traffic is traveling faster than 30 mph, when passing a car at more than 10 mph faster than the car, and the motorcycle must have a safe amount of space to fit between the cars.
Utah permitted lane splitting, also called lane filtering, on May 14, 2019. Utah permitted lane splitting to reduce rear-end collisions.
Lane splitting is permitted in Utah when the posted speed limit is less than 45 mph; the road has two or more lanes in the same direction; the vehicles the motorcycle is passing must be stopped; the motorcycle speed is 15 mph or less, and passing must be made safely.
This article explains the appropriate conditions, actions, and behavior of motorcyclists and drivers when lane splitting in Utah. The driver in this incident opened his door to stop the motorcycle and could have been charged with assault if the motorcyclist hit the door.
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: Motorcyclists face significant danger from rear-end collisions. Lane splitting can significantly reduce rear-end collisions. 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.
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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles and content on this website, one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.
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Robert Plevy, Esq. is a motorcycle accident lawyer and one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Robert began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.