Can you lane split in Texas? It’s a question many Texas motorcycle riders have asked themselves at one point or another, and today we’re here to give you the scoop.
Proponents of lane splitting readily rattle off its benefits. They claim it saves time, keeps motorcycle riders cooler in the Texas heat, alleviates traffic congestion, and is generally safer.
Others disagree, saying lane splitting is risky, distracting, and not a habit our roads were designed for. They believe it will increase the chances of motorcycle accidents, especially on our highways.
So what are the facts?
First things first:
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting refers to a motorcycle rider’s maneuver of riding in between cars, along the dashed lines that delineate different lanes of traffic.
Many riders resort to this behavior because motorcycles do not have designated lanes (heck, Houston has a shortage of bicycle lanes!) Sometimes they’re especially tempted to lane split when faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic under the scorching sun.
While this may seem like a swell idea — you’re beating Houston traffic, you’re creating your own space, and your front and back are no longer vulnerable to the movements of surrounding cars — it can actually lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents. Why? It’s simple: drivers are not expecting to encounter a motorcycle riding in between lanes.
Still, some motorcycle riders argue lane splitting is the only way to ease traffic congestion. (What’s the saying? Gotta bend a few rules to make an omelet? No, that can’t be right…)
After all, as the Texas Department of Transportation’s Roadway Design Manual admits, “providing safe mobility for pedestrians and cyclists while reducing delays for motorists are potentially conflicting objectives.”
Dangers of Lane Splitting
Not only does lane splitting startle and upset drivers, it puts motorcyclists at risk.
A car may be hastily changing lanes and neglect to look out for a motorcycle zooming past them, or they may see the motorcycle but misinterpret the speed at which it is traveling, thinking they have adequate time. (A study conducted by UC Berkeley discovered when lane splitting motorcyclists exceeded the speed of surrounding traffic by more than 15 miles per hour, their risk of injury spiked.)
Motorcycle accidents can be devastating, even at low speeds. The higher speeds of Houston freeways can mean “game over.”
But at times, even the most experienced motorcycle riders may “cut corners” — literally and metaphorically! — with daredevil antics. One such risky behavior is lane splitting.
Unfortunately, Texas roads are the site of many motorcycle deaths. Numbers don’t lie: every year, the Lone Star State sees between 400 and 500 motorcycle accident fatalities and approximately 2,000 serious motorcycle accident injuries.
Obviously motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, leaving their passengers more vulnerable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle riders are a whopping 28 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic accident.
But let’s get down to business: is lane splitting legal in Texas?
Can You Split Lanes in Texas?
Nope. Lane splitting is illegal in Texas.
Motorcyclists must follow many of the same rules of the road as drivers, but lane splitting is a violation unique to the former, thanks to their narrowness and smaller size.
According to the Texas Transportation Code, if a roadway is divided into lanes, users of that roadway must stay within the designated confines of the lane and may not move between lanes unless it is safe to do so. This code applies to motorcycle riders as well as automobile drivers. Although the act of “lane splitting” is not explicitly named, it is prohibited by this code.
Motorcycle riders in Texas can be ticketed by police for illegal passing or dangerous lane changing. However, keep in mind that even if you get into a motorcycle accident in Houston and receive a ticket, you may still be entitled to compensation from that accident. Contact a Houston motorcycle accident lawyer to learn more about your rights and your legal options!
In the past, Texas considered legislation to allow lane splitting under certain speed limits. In December of 2018, Texas State Senator Kirk Watson introduced SB-273, which would’ve allowed motorcycles to lane split on Texas freeways as long as the surrounding traffic was moving at 20 miles per hour or less and the motorcyclist did not exceed the speed of traffic by more than 5 miles per hour. Ultimately, the state of Texas decided against this proposition.
Currently, California is the only state in our country where lane splitting is legal.
While we’re on the topic, let’s brush up on a couple of other Texas motorcycle laws.
Texas Motorcycle Laws
Texas law does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets if they are over 21 years of age and have taken an approved motorcycle safety class, or if they have health insurance that covers motorcycle accidents.
Interested in the safety classes? Recently, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation took over the Motorcycle and ATV Operator Safety Program, which was previously handled by the Texas Department of Public Safety. This program officially licenses schools and instructors to teach students how to safely operate motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
Did you know when it comes to Texas insurance requirements, motorcycles are considered the same as cars? Minimum liability limits are $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.
Additionally, just like cars, motorcycles in Texas must pass an annual safety inspection.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
Lane splitting aside, there are still plenty of dangers a motorcycle rider must face every time they hop on their bike. What can they do to “ride defensively” and stay safe? Here a few quick tips, straight from our experienced Houston motorcycle accident lawyers.
- Suit up! Even though Texas does not have motorcycle helmet laws, safety gear is still important. The World Health Organization determined wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by almost 40% and reduces the risk of head injury by almost 70%. Whenever you ride, always wear your helmet, as well as protective apparel like a leather jacket, gloves, and closed-toe boots.
- Stay alert! Avoid riding in the blind spots of other vehicles, watch out for turning cars and trucks, and check weather forecasts to avoid getting caught in hazardous road conditions.
- Don’t speed! Speeding can be fatal for a motorcyclist, especially if they’re taking a sharp turn. Always obey speed limit signs.
- Stay insured! A harsh truth: Texas’ minimum liability insurance for motorcycles probably won’t cover all of your medical bills if you get into an accident. Consider purchasing additional coverage like personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage.
- Remember motorcycle maintenance! Check your motorcycle’s tire pressure and keep an eye out for punctures or cracks in the rubber. Change the oil, coolant, and air filters on a regular basis. Give your motorcycle a quick inspection before you ride, each and every time. It could make all the difference!
- Assume people don’t see you! Most drivers on the road aren’t expecting to see a motorcycle in their path. Always proceed with caution, use your turn signals, and wear reflective clothing at night. You can also add adhesive reflectors or reflective tape to your bike for maximum visibility!
- Never drink and ride! Never ride your motorcycle after drinking alcohol. Your balance, judgment, vision, and reaction time are all affected, putting everyone on the road in danger.
Houston Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Available Now
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident while lane splitting in Texas, you still have rights. Was a negligent driver or other liable party involved? A Houston motorcycle accident attorney can dive in and determine if you are eligible for compensation. Our legal experts are available 24/7 and are ready to evaluate your case for free!
Our firm has experience handling all sorts of accidents, from catastrophic semi truck accidents to minor bicycle accidents. No matter what you’re dealing with, we’re here to help. Our client-first mentality means your needs are our priority.
Reach out now for a 100% free consultation.