Many motorists, motorcyclists included, secure their license and then, sadly, never revisit their driver’s manual again. The danger associated with this is that while they may learn the rules of the road when they first get their license, that knowledge may be fleeting the longer it is since they first secured it. One detail that may be a bit fuzzy for motorcyclists is an answer to the question, “Is lane splitting and filtering legal in Texas?” Keep reading where we’ll discuss what this practice is and the legalities surrounding it here in The Lone Star State.
How Lane Splitting and Filtering Differ
According to the American Motorcyclist Association, there’s a marked difference between lane splitting and filtering. Lane splitting, also referred to by some as stripe-riding or white lining, involves a motorbike rider traveling in the same direction as other drivers in between marked lanes to get ahead of slow-moving traffic. In contrast, lane filtering specifically refers to motorcyclists navigating their bikes to the forefront of other automobiles stopped at a traffic signal.
The Legalities of Lane Splitting in Texas
While it’s legal to lane split or lane share in at least one state in the United States, Texas is not it. This doesn’t mean that no one has tried to make it legal in our state over the years.
An initial attempt to make this practice legal was forwarded in 2015, but those efforts didn’t go anywhere.
Then, in 2017, a Democratic senator proposed a bill, Senate Bill (SB) 288 to the Texas Senate Transportation Committee to potentially make lane splitting legal. However, it never came up for vote and thus never had a chance to become a law.
Then, in 2019, SB 273 was proposed that would potentially legalize lane splitting, but the Senate Transportation Committee didn’t pass it.
Still, as of publication now in 2023, lane splitting and filtering have not been made legal.
Why Is Lane Splitting Still Illegal in Texas?
Many motorcyclists engage in lane splitting despite it being illegal to do so in Texas. By doing so, they run the risk of a law enforcement officer stopping them and issuing a citation. Why? Lane splitting and lane filtering could cause a completely preventable accident.
See, lane splitting or filtering involves a motorbike rider continuing to propel forward as they attempt to circumnavigate heavy traffic. While many bikers argue that they can easily anticipate other motorists’ actions so as not to inadvertently cause a crash, opponents to lane splitting or filtering contend otherwise. They note that it’s virtually impossible to anticipate the actions of other drivers—especially as drivers become more disillusioned and try to find alternatives for breaking free from gridlocked traffic just like bikers—and that’s when accidents occur.
In these instances, one of the following types of crashes can occur:
- A sideswipe or side underride accident: This can occur if a motorist, such as a light or large truck operator, loses track of the lane-splitting or filtering motorcyclist and attempts to circumnavigate a blockage.
- A dooring accident: A situation where a motorist opens their door in front of them, causing them to collide with it, may occur if a car operator attempts to get out of their vehicle in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
- A struck-by or crush crash: This may occur if a motorist gets struck by another vehicle when navigating a curb or turn when lane splitting because they didn’t realize the cyclist entered its path.
- A rear-end crash: Some motorbike riding organizations, like Texas Riders for Lane Splitting, argue that the practice reduces their chances of becoming the victim of a rear-end accident. These types of crashes commonly occur when car drivers find themselves in heavily congested traffic, eager to get on with their journey, or are perhaps distracted.
Also, another danger aside from the potential accident risk associated with motorcyclists’ lane splitting or filtering is that it may lead to road rage. Car drivers may resent the fact that motorcyclists are attempting to weave through traffic to get around or ahead of them in traffic jams. They may intentionally use their cars as weapons to take out their frustrations on bikers or may react violently toward them in some other way, causing injuries or their deaths.
Liability for Lane Splitting or Filtering Accidents in Texas
Since both of these common motorcyclist operation tactics are illegal, you may be wondering who would be liable for a crash if it were attributable to these driving tactics.
Texas is an at-fault accident state. However, it’s also a modified comparative fault one whereby motorists must be 50% or less at fault for a crash to be entitled to recover damages for their injuries, lost wages, or other losses they suffered.
Thus, insurers could make the determination that a motorcyclist who violated Texas law by lane splitting or filtering could be at least partially or wholly liable for the crash that caused their injuries. On the flip side of the coin, if a motorist opened their car door spontaneously and the motorbike rider collided with it, the liability determination could be that that driver is partially or wholly liable for the collision.
What To Do After a Lane Splitting or Filtering Accident
We previously did a blog post in which we discussed whether Dallas is motorcycle-friendly. As another major Texas city, Houston is not all that different from Dallas when it comes to the safety of motorbike riders. Motorcyclists have to do their part to look out for themselves. However, sometimes that’s not good enough, and they still become involved in crashes.
It’s best to call 911 and report a crash anytime one occurs to, at the very least, facilitate the exchange of information with other motorists and to document what happened. Police officers can also summon paramedics to ensure efficient transportation of injured parties to the hospital for treatment.
While you will need to report your accident to your auto insurance company, you have to watch what you say so as to not compromise your right to compensation for your injuries. It’s always best to simply stick to the facts when reporting what happened and to not allow yourself to get caught up in an insurer’s manipulative tactics. Any Houston motorcycle accident attorney on our team can assist to ensure you protect the integrity of your case. So, schedule a free case review session with a lawyer at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm today.