It’s happened to all bikers at some time in their lives: You’re riding down I-49 when the traffic suddenly slows, then stops. You’ve had your foot down for a few minutes, and there’s plenty of space to your right... should you attempt splitting the lanes, or will it be the last thing you do before a serious motorcycle crash?
Who Is Liable for a Bike Accident While Lane Splitting?
Unfortunately, bikers will often be blamed for accidents that occur when motorcyclists are lane splitting. However, it is important that bikers know that just because they were riding between traffic lanes does not mean they are automatically at fault. In many cases, motorcyclists are acting within the bounds of the law when they are struck by other drivers, but because the practice is considered unsafe, the victims will forgo their chance at recovering damages.
Who Wasn’t Driving Safely?
While lane splitting can be dangerous, it is not specifically prohibited by law. If the motorcycle rider can demonstrate that the driver who struck him was breaking the law by driving distracted, driving under the influence, or was engaging in risky behavior, a judge may be convinced that the driver contributed to the accident.
Consider the following questions when proving fault in a motorcycle crash:
- Was the biker speeding or weaving between stopped cars?
- Was the driver speeding, on his cellphone, or texting at the time of the crash?
- How many years of motorcycle riding experience does the biker have?
- Was the driver attempting to “get over” at the last possible second?
- Has either party been involved in similar accidents before?
- Has the biker completed any safety courses, participated in events, or have any safety certifications?
- Did the driver try to cross multiple lanes of traffic at once?
- Did the driver use his signals before crossing into another lane?
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
If you must split lanes, be as careful as possible when traveling between slow-moving vehicles. This includes:
- Always wearing bright, reflective clothing and using your headlights after dark.
- Staying out of any vehicle’s blind spots.
- Stop splitting if one lane begins moving faster (cars are more likely to switch between lanes).
- Riding at a safe and law-abiding speed.
- Do not attempt to “squeeze” through cars that are close together.
- Get back into the lane when cars begin moving again.
A biker’s best defense against these types of accidents is to refrain from lane splitting whenever possible. A judge, or your insurance carrier, will almost always see the behavior as reckless even when it is done safely—possibly preventing you from getting the money you need to fix your bike and pay your medical bills.
Motorcycle enthusiast and attorney James Roswold knows how the law feels about motorcyclists, and has spent years protecting bikers’ rights. Find out how he has helped injured bikers recover damages in The Devil’s Advocate: A Biker’s Guide to Accidents & Injuries. Click the link on this page to download your free copy today!