The term “lane splitting” refers to riding a motorcycle between two lanes of moving traffic. This is also known as “white-lining” or “stripe-riding.” Motorcyclists tend to engage in lane splitting during heavy traffic congestion to pass cars and trucks that are moving below the speed limit or standing still.
It may be tempting to lane split when dealing with New York traffic. However, passing cars between lanes of traffic is illegal in the state of New York. California is the only state that expressly allows lane splitting for passing. Learn more about New York’s laws for motorcyclists and what to do if you were in an accident as a rider.
New York Motorcycle Laws Riders Need to Know
New York law explicitly outlaws lane splitting, per VAT § 1252. According to this law, motorcyclists cannot drive between designated traffic lanes or adjacent rows of vehicle traffic. According to CBS 2 New York reporting, it appears unlikely that New York City would change this ban on lane splitting.
Lane splitting should not be confused with lane sharing, wherein two motorcycles ride side-by-side in the same lane. In fact, VAT § 1252 also grants motorcyclists several other privileges and protections, including the right to ride two abreast in a given lane. In addition, motorcyclists also have the right to the full use of a traffic lane.
Other Laws for Motorcyclists in New York
To drive a motorcycle in New York state, you must have a Class M or MJ operator’s license or learner’s permit, per the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A learner’s permit requires passing a written test. When riding, the learner must be supervised by a driver with a valid motorcycle license.
Other New York laws specify certain requirements for motorcycles and motorcycle riding. The laws specify that:
- Riders must wear motorcycle helmets that meet the federal safety standards established by FMVSS 218.
- If you have a speaker in your helmet, it may only have one earphone.
- If you are carrying a passenger, you must do so on a proper passenger seat
- You must use headlights even during the daytime.
- Protective eyewear is mandatory, and this protective gear must meet the standards of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI – Z87.1).
- Your motorcycle should have a muffler.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting – Considering Pros and Cons
California law permits lane splitting, and Utah’s “lane filtering” law went into effect in 2019. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, at least 15 states have considered bills to legalize lane splitting in recent years.
The Pew Charitable Trusts report explains both sides of the lane-splitting issue:
- Lane splitting advocates note that this practice often helps to reduce traffic congestion. It can even be safer for motorcyclists who are at risk of being rear-ended when other vehicle drivers are distracted in congested areas.
- However, many do not see as many benefits for motorcyclists and vehicle drivers. Opponents note that there is a strong possibility that a motorcyclist will be hit by drivers who are not prepared for lane splitting.
Both advocates and opponents of lane splitting note that public education would be necessary to ensure the success of lane-splitting friendly laws.
Support for Lane Splitting Is Mixed Among Leading Roadway Safety Organizations
According to the National Highway Safety Association (NHTSA), lane splitting could offer many potential benefits, stating that it’s possible for motorcyclists to safely position themselves between lanes and maximize their view of traffic. The NHTSA suggests that lane splitting should be studied further to determine its potential effectiveness in the United States.
Studies by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California Berkeley (UCB) support lane splitting, as well. Research on lane splitting from UCB notes that lane splitting is most safely executed when:
- Area speed limits are 50 mph and under
- Motorcyclists are not riding more than 15 mph faster than other surrounding traffic
Researchers note that one of the strongest predictors of hazards for lane-splitting riders is the difference between a motorcyclist’s speed and the traffic around them. The danger of accidents increases as that difference increases and motorcyclists drive faster than other traffic by 15 mph and above. A 2015 SafeTREC report says motorcyclists who split lanes are likely commuting, traveling at lower speeds than other motorcyclists, and using better helmets.
Advocates of Lane Splitting Propose These Potential Safety Guidelines
The not-for-profit Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) says riders can manage the risks of lane splitting by being extra cautious and alert and following a few common-sense guidelines, which include:
- Be consistent about where you practice lane splitting so drivers know what to expect. Stick to riding between the two far-left lanes.
- Avoid riding between lanes when traffic is moving at normal speed limits.
- Reduce your speed so that you’re not traveling substantially faster than other surrounding traffic.
- Ride within posted speed limits.
Motorcyclists Often Face Claims of Liability for Motorcycle Accidents
New York is a “no-fault” insurance state, which means that policyholders should be able to obtain insurance payments regardless of who was responsible for an accident. However, in certain situations, drivers and others injured in accidents can seek compensation for injuries from a liable driver – and often, motorcyclists face disproportionate blame for a crash.
A motorcycle accident attorney can investigate and help build evidence to show what happened and how a liable vehicle driver caused the crash. Even if a motorcyclist is partially at fault or was lane splitting at the time of the crash, they still may be able to seek compensation for their injuries from their own insurance provider.
On the other hand, drivers who were in accidents caused primarily by a motorcyclist may be able to seek compensation through the liable riders’ policy.
What to do If You were in a Lane-Splitting Motorcycle Crash
A motorcycle accident can be devastating – especially for motorcyclists. If you need to seek compensation for painful injuries and other losses after a crash, take these important steps:
- Get medical care for your injuries: If you already received emergency medical care after the crash, continue getting the treatments you need. Follow your doctors’ orders. If they tell you to take certain medications or attend physical therapy, do so. This is crucial for your health, and it can show the severity of your injuries for your personal injury case.
- Hang on to any evidence: If you have receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, collect these receipts. If you have contact information from any witnesses to the accident, gather these for your own evidence file.
- Get a free case review from a law firm: A law firm can answer your questions about motorcycle accidents in New York. Many law firms offer free case reviews so you can understand your options and consider whether it makes sense to get a lawyer for your accident case.
Again, even if you were lane splitting at the time of the crash, seek a free case review. A lawyer could help you gather evidence to help you seek the best possible compensation for your injuries and other losses.
The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP Can Help After a Motorcycle Accident
After being injured in a motorcycle lane-splitting accident in New York, our motorcycle accident attorneys can help. At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, our Long Island attorneys work to seek the financial recovery you are due. We will determine if you can file a claim or a lawsuit, and we will handle every step of your case.
Contact us online or call our office: (516) 358-6900. We will respond promptly. We can even meet you in your home or hospital if you cannot travel to us.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900