Lane splitting is a common practice among motorcyclists, but it is illegal in South Carolina. That doesn’t stop motorcyclists from putting themselves and others at risk of serious injury and even death by engaging in this dangerous behavior.
If you’re a motorcyclist, it’s imperative that you know the laws of this state about lane splitting.
Our firm defends motorcycle accident victims who have been falsely accused of lane splitting or have been injured because of other drivers who were negligent. The Lancaster, SC motorcycle accident attorneys of Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys examine this issue below and what it means for riders.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is driving a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic. It is also known as white lining because, during the act of lane splitting, the motorcyclist drives on the white lines painted between lanes. It is often done in places with high congestion and slow-moving or stopped traffic. Nearly two-thirds of motorcyclists admit to using lane splitting to avoid traffic, making it a fairly common behavior.
If you’re a rider and you have ever wondered whether lane splitting on a motorcycle is legal in South Carolina, the answer is a clear no. Section 56-5-3640(c) of the South Carolina Code of Laws expressly states, “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
Is Lane Splitting Safe?
Proponents of lane splitting generally offer two arguments in favor of this practice:
- Safety: Defenders of lane splitting point to studies allegedly proving that it reduces the risk that riders will be rear-ended by an automobile. Additionally, lane splitting allows motorcyclists to escape if they become trapped between two vehicles.
- Reduced congestion: In situations with dense traffic, permitting motorcyclists to ride on the white stripes between lanes allows cars to move into the lanes. This can potentially improve congestion, especially during rush hour when accidents in general are more likely.
However, there are no extensive studies supporting these claims. Those who object to lane splitting would make the following points against it:
- Increased risks from lane changing: Even if lane splitting reduces the number of rear-end accidents, it increases the risk of motorcycles being hit by cars as they change lanes. After all, motorcycles are harder to see, and cars usually do not expect them to ride along the white lines.
- Road rage: Unfortunately, many drivers dislike motorcyclists because of prejudicial attitudes against them. They may, therefore, become easily frustrated by motorcycles passing them, especially during rush hour when motorists are already irritable.
- Insufficient positive impact: There may not be enough motorcycles on the roads and highways for lane splitting to have more than a marginal impact on traffic congestion. Since few studies have been conducted, proponents’ arguments about reduced congestion are speculative at best.
Can Motorcycles Share the Same Lane in South Carolina?
Although lane splitting is illegal in our state, lane sharing is allowed. This happens when two motorcyclists drive within (share) the same lane of traffic, side by side. Because lanes are wide enough for automobiles, and motorcycles are much smaller, two can usually fit safely within a single lane.
Lane sharing and lane splitting should not be confused with lane filtering. Lane filtering occurs when a motorcyclist drives between stationary or slower-moving traffic. It commonly happens at stoplights when a rider maneuvers to the front of the traffic line so he or she can move first when the light changes green. This activity is prohibited in South Carolina.
Should Lane Splitting Be Legal?
Lane splitting is highly controversial, and the merits of it have been debated for years. California is currently the only state that allows the practice, a notable fact considering how prevalent motorcycles are throughout the country.
By the same token, defenders of lane splitting point to a report prepared for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a University of California Berkeley study. These indicate that motorcyclists who lane split in congested traffic are less likely to be hit from behind by other drivers.
How Elrod Pope Can Help Motorcycle Accident Victims in Lancaster, SC
While a motorcycle cannot split lanes in South Carolina, there are cases in which at-fault drivers have falsely accused motorcyclists of lane splitting in an attempt to deflect blame for an accident. This is not merely a legal defense; if successfully argued, it can actually reduce the damages that a motorcycle accident victim recovers.
South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, which means the victim’s damages may be lessened if he or she was partially responsible. Any argument that the motorcyclist victim engaged in illegal activity, such as lane splitting, would, therefore, jeopardize his or her monetary compensation.
Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys defends the rights of motorcycle accident victims by not only refuting such claims but by taking legal action against negligent drivers that cause them injuries. We work to recover the maximum damages available under law so victims can get their lives back to normal. If you or a loved one were injured on a motorcycle by a negligent driver, contact Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys to learn how we can fight for you.