lane splitting motorcycle

Motorcycle accidents are quite common on the congested streets of New York and may occur due to several reasons. Although some of these accidents may arise from unforeseeable circumstances, analysis of motorcycle accident data shows that most cases are preventable if sufficient caution is exercised by everyone on the road.

It’s a known fact that motorcycles provide very little protection to the person riding them as compared to the extensive features available to someone driving a car. Therefore, it naturally follows that when they hear of a motorcycle accident in NYC, people tend to assume that it was caused due to reckless driving by the car driver. While this is certainly possible, it is equally true that in some cases, it may be the motorcyclist who was responsible for the accident because of lane splitting which is an illegal maneuver in New York State.

What is Lane Splitting?

As you wait in peak hour traffic on the congested lanes of New York City, you may have noticed a motorcycle rider who tries to get ahead of you by riding in the space available between two other lanes of traffic. This type of movement is called lane splitting and it is a common maneuver used by motorcyclists who take advantage of the flexibility of movement provided by their smaller vehicle to pass between other vehicles that are either stationary or moving very slowly.

Also called “white-lining” or “filtering” or “stripe-riding”, lane splitting can be quite dangerous because other drivers on the road are not expecting such random movement and may strike the motorcyclist when they stop or move in their lane.

Lane Splitting is Illegal in New York

Under New York State laws, motorcyclists are permitted to the full use of a lane. This concept called “lane sharing” is different from lane splitting. Lane sharing means that a motorcyclist is allowed to share lanes with another motorcycle rider riding in the same lane. However, New York law does not allow motorcyclists to ride between lanes in which other vehicles are moving or stationary and lane splitting is, therefore, an illegal maneuver.

Are There Any Advantages to Lane Splitting?

A rear-end collision in which a passenger vehicle crashes into a motorcycle can cause grave injuries even when the vehicle moves at a low speed. When the motorcyclist is violently hit from behind, they have absolutely no opportunity to do anything to avoid the crash.

As a result, rear-end motorcycle accidents are considered among the most hazardous type of motorcycle accidents. A motorcyclist who is rear-ended will often be thrown off their bike, leading to devastating injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injury, permanent disability or even death.

Considering the dangers of rear-end motorcycle accidents, there are some voices that support lane splitting as a safe alternative that allows motorcyclists to ride in safety on congested roads.

A 2017 petition to the Department of Transportation of NYC asked that motorcyclists be allowed to split lanes because this can actually help to reduce the congestion on the road.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is in support of lane splitting, and they quote the narrow width of the motorcycle as an advantage when it comes to passing between other slow-moving or stationary lanes of vehicles on the road.

Why is Lane Splitting Considered Dangerous?

Despite the above-mentioned advantages of lane splitting, it does not enjoy legal sanction because there are several dangers that may result from this act. Lane splitting can be extremely hazardous especially in the following situations:

  • When the motorcyclist is lane splitting, if another passenger vehicle suddenly changes lanes, there can be a grave collision that causes severe injuries.
  • If a motorcyclist who is lane splitting ends up in the motorist’s blind spot on the passenger side, the former may get struck when the motorist tries to make a right turn at an intersection.
  • When a motorcyclist moves between lanes of stationary vehicles, they may collide with the door that a car passenger opens to exit the vehicle.

According to researchers who carried out the California Enhanced Motorcycle Collision Data Project in 2015, 17% of the motorcycle accidents that were analyzed were found to occur at the time when the motorcyclist was lane splitting.

This study also studied other aspects regarding safe driving behavior for motorcyclists. It reported that the probability of a motorcycle accident was least in traffic that moves at a speed below 50 mph and when there is a difference of at least 10-15 mph between the speeds of the motorcycle and other vehicles in the traffic.

Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) Guidelines for Safe Motorcycle Riding

The MIC, a not-for-profit organization, provides guidelines for motorcyclists to ride safely on the congested streets of New York. They advise that motorcycle riders stay alert and cautious and follow the following measures when riding in heavy, slow-moving traffic:

  • Never split lanes when traffic is moving at or close to the prescribed speed limit.
  • If at all you wish to split lanes, do so only between the two lanes of traffic that are at the extreme left. When the lane-splitting location is consistent, car drivers driving in the adjacent lanes will learn to be watchful for motorcyclists moving past them.
  • Never drive above the prescribed limits when splitting lanes.
  • Make sure your speed is not significantly greater than that of the adjacent vehicles.
  • Whenever possible, if you find a carpool lane where the traffic is free-flowing, use that lane instead of resorting to lane splitting.

How Can You Prevent Lane Splitting Accidents in NYC?

As with any other crash, New York lane splitting accidents too can be prevented if motorcycle riders exercise due caution to avoid all those circumstances that are likely to cause a crash. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Always follow the traffic laws
  • Stay aware of what is happening on the road around you
  • Ensure you provide sufficient indication of your intention when driving
  • Avoid getting into positions that put you into another vehicle’s blind spots
  • Share the road with others instead of trying to cut them off
  • Make sure your motorcycle is in good running condition
  • Follow the laws regarding increasing your motorcycle’s visibility through the use of lights (headlight, brake light, and taillight), reflectors, rearview mirrors, brakes, horn, and turn signals.

How is Liability Determined in Motorcycle Accidents in New York?

Under New York law, in a motorcycle accident, one or multiple individuals or entities may be held liable for the crash. If the accident was caused by a passenger vehicle driver’s failure to notice the motorcyclist, that driver can be held responsible for the crash. In some cases, if the poor road conditions contribute to the accident, the government body that is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the road may also be held accountable.

In cases where it can be proved that the malfunction of a defective part in the motorcycle led to the crash, the motorcycle manufacturer may also be held liable for the injuries the victim suffered. However, if you have been hurt in an accident that occurred when you were splitting lanes, things can get a little complicated.

Get in Touch with a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in New York

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident that involved lane splitting, you definitely need to engage the services of a competent and experienced New York motorcycle accident lawyer who knows how the system works.

At Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP,  our experienced attorneys have a thorough understanding of the laws regarding motorcycle riding and they can help you present a strong case that is likely to win the damages you claim.

Once you engage our services, our lawyers will conduct an independent investigation of the accident and make sure relevant evidence and information is collected and preserved. Through interaction with medical and financial experts, we will then help you determine the compensation to be claimed to meet your present as well as long-term expenses that have resulted from the accident.

If you approach us soon after your NYC motorcycle accident, we can even try to get the party at fault to pay for the medical treatment you had to undergo due to the accident.

Riding a motorcycle in a crowded city like New York can pose quite a few unique challenges. Whether it is a motorcycle traffic ticket that you are worried about or claiming compensation for a motorcycle accident that was caused by another party’s negligence, our professional motorcycle accident lawyers can provide you with the right advice and support to ensure your rights are protected.

Our team of accomplished motorcycle accident lawyers has years of experience in negotiating with insurance adjusters as well as with pursuing a case to trial. So, whatever you decide regarding the course of action you wish to pursue, we have the necessary resources to support you in your decision.

If you have any issues regarding a motorcycle accident or ticket, call us today at 1-800-660-2264 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.


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