How Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Help Victims of Lane Splitting Crashes
Motorcycle accidents caused by lane splitting raise many questions. Did the motorcyclist break the law by driving on the white line between lanes? And, will the insurance company cover a claim if the rider did not get a ticket? Motorcyclists also have questions, such as, “Do I have a good personal injury case if the driver hit me while I was riding between lanes?”
Legally, lane splitting falls in a gray area in most of Missouri. There are no mentions of lane splitting in Missouri state statutes, but some cities have their own ordinances. The ambiguity of the law may make it more difficult for an accident victim to receive compensation from the insurance company of the driver responsible.
St. Louis motorcycle accident attorneys help people who have been in a wreck get the money they need to pay for medical bills, car repairs, and missed work. They consider the latest research on whether lane splitting is safe and gather evidence from many sources.
What is Lane Splitting?
Also known as stripe riding or white lining, lane splitting is one of three ways some motorcyclists navigate crowded streets and highways:
- Lane splitting is when motorcyclists weave through traffic and drive on the white line between lanes.
- Lane filtering is when motorcyclists weave around slow or stopped traffic.
- Lane sharing is when two or more motorcyclists ride in the same lane.
Some say lane splitting is dangerous. Others say it is safer for motorcyclists than sitting in stop-and-go traffic.
The Dangers of Lane Splitting
Over a five-year-period, a French study compared motorcycle accident rates in areas where lane splitting was allowed, and in other areas where it was prohibited. Published in 2021, the study reported an increase of 12% in motorcycle accidents in areas where lane splitting was allowed. At the same time, accident rates dropped by 10% in areas where lane splitting was banned. Researchers concluded that while prohibiting lane splitting improved traffic safety, they wanted to know more about how to safely allow lane splitting.
The U.S. government does not track deaths or injuries caused by lane splitting, but in general, motorcycle accidents are far more dangerous than car accidents. A total of 5,579 people died in motorcycle accidents in the U.S. in 2020, including 153 people in Illinois and 123 in Missouri. The fatality rate is significantly higher in motorcycle accidents than all vehicles combined. Motorcycles make up 3% of registered vehicles in the U.S., but are involved in 14% of all traffic deaths.
According to safety experts, banning lane splitting reduces the number of fatal accidents. They point to the following safety risks:
- Riding between vehicles limits the available space motorcyclists have for maneuvering.
- Vehicles changing lanes may fail to see the motorcycle.
- A motorcyclist may not be able to stop in time if a motorist changes lanes in front of them.
- A motorcyclist may hit an obstacle on the road they did not see as they moved onto the white line between lanes and cause an accident.
- A driver or passenger may throw something out of the window and hit the rider.
- A driver with road rage may target a motorcyclist who is lane splitting.
Inexperienced motorcyclists are in greater danger of crashing than those who have been riding for years because lack of skill increases the likelihood of an accident.
Lane Splitting is Safe in Some Cases
California decided to stop fighting lane splitting on its congested highways. Instead, traffic safety experts found a way to make lane splitting work for riders and drivers. First, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied lane splitting safety. They found lane splitting is safe when motorcyclists and drivers are driving at around the same speed.
After the study came out, California legalized lane splitting. Motorcyclists must split lanes at no faster than 15 mph over the traffic flow, and it is prohibited in some places including on and off ramps. Within a year, the number of deaths from motorcycle wrecks statewide dropped 30%.
In its guidelines on how to maneuver in lanes, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends more study on the safety of lane splitting.
Which State Motorcycle Laws Ban Lane Splitting?
States make and enforce traffic laws in the United States, and lane splitting laws vary. California, Utah, and Hawaii allow lane splitting. Thirty-five states prohibit lane splitting. And 11 say nothing about it in state laws.
Missouri Motorcycle Laws
Missouri is one of the states with no mention of lane splitting in state statutes. However, some Missouri cities, including St. Louis and Kansas City, have ordinances prohibiting lane splitting. Riders cited for lane splitting face stiff penalties. Insurance companies also may reduce settlement payments after accidents to motorcyclists cited for lane splitting.
Police cannot target motorcyclists for lane splitting when they are riding Missouri roads in places without lane splitting ordinances. They do cite riders for reckless driving, speeding, and other traffic violations following accidents.
Illinois Motorcycle Laws
Lane splitting is banned in Illinois, per Chapter 625 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes (625 ILCS 5/11-703(c)). Violating the law can result in a charge of Class A misdemeanor or worse. The penalty for a Class A felony is up to a year in jail, two years of probation, and a fine of up to $2,500. If you wreck while lane splitting and someone is hurt, the prosecutor could charge you with a Class 3 felony and you will face jail time if convicted.
Because of the Illinois law, motorcyclists typically are determined to be at fault for accidents involving lane splitting and thus liable for damages.
How Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Help Crash Victims
If a motorcycle rider causes a crash, the driver of the other vehicle expects compensation for their injuries or loss of property. In some cases, the motorcyclist’s insurance company will not cover all the damage, or they will outright deny the claim. That is why it is important to seek legal counsel even if the accident was not your fault. Motorcycle accident attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch represent people who are suffering because of crashes, whether they are motorcycle riders or drivers of other vehicles. They may have injuries or a wrecked car. They may not be able to work.
Proving a Lane-Splitting Motorcycle Rider Caused the Accident
Insurance companies want evidence of who was responsible for the wreck. In Missouri, where there is no law banning lane splitting, law enforcement officials may not give the rider a ticket after a wreck. That makes it more difficult to receive compensation. Motorcycle accident attorneys do not let that stop them from getting crash victims the compensation they deserve.
To prove lane splitting caused an accident and the motorcyclist is at fault, motorcycle accident attorneys review the police report, any tickets issued, and reports from first responders detailing victims’ conditions and treatment. Our team also gathers medical bills and doctors’ notes along with details of damage done to cars and other personal property.
Proving a Distracted Driver Caused the Crash, Not Lane Splitting
After a crash, police want to blame the rider who was lane splitting. In some cases, a distracted driver causes the crash. They may have been distracted by a phone call, a crying baby, or choosing a song to play. Insurance companies may still try to pin the blame on the motorcyclist who was lane splitting.
In Missouri, where there is no ban on lane splitting, motorcyclists are free to bring personal injury claims against drivers who hit them. However, many people think lane splitting is dangerous and that will make winning a personal injury case difficult. The opposing party’s lawyer and the insurance company will argue that you put yourself in danger, which will affect the amount of any settlement you receive.
Talk to a Motorcycle Accident Attorney About Your Experience
Even when a motorcyclist or driver was clearly at fault, it can be difficult and frustrating to prove it. Personal injury attorneys Hipskind & McAninch, however, have the experience and knowledge to prove who is liable and get you the compensation you need and deserve. Contact Hipskind & McAninch for a free consultation to discuss your case.