motorcycle driving at the middle of the road

Is Lane Splitting Legal in South Carolina?

Lane splitting refers to a motorcycle driving between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. It is most common in congested traffic when a motorcyclist passes stopped or slower-moving vehicles by driving in between them. California is the only state that does not expressly prohibit lane splitting. If you lane split in South Carolina, where lane splitting is illegal, you could end up with a traffic citation and expensive ticket.

Why Do Motorcyclists Lane Split?

Lane splitting, also called lane filtering, is popular among motorcyclists for its speed and safety. Motorcyclists do not have to sit or wait in traffic in California thanks to lane splitting. They can instead navigate around stopped traffic by riding on the line between two lanes. Motorcyclists in other states may illegally lane split for the same reason – to get out of traffic and off the roads faster. The other supporting argument for lane splitting is that it is safer for motorcyclists.

When a motorcyclist has the option of riding or stopping between lanes, rather than between two vehicles, it reduces the risk of serious rear-end collisions. A motor vehicle striking a motorcycle from the rear can dislodge the rider and cause severe or fatal injuries. Stopping or riding between the sides of vehicles reduces this risk for motorcyclists. It also allows them to avoid rear-ending other vehicles. Although some argue that lane splitting can startle other drivers and contribute to accidents, research on the practice concludes that its benefits outweigh the risks.

Why is Lane-Splitting Legal in California?

In 2015, the University of California Berkeley released a lane-splitting study that analyzed its safety. Transportation researchers concluded that it does not pose a greater risk for injury than riding in a lane normally. The study found that when motorcyclists lane split in traffic moving at no more than 50 miles per hour, and if the motorcycle’s speed does not exceed that of surrounding vehicles by more than 15 miles per hour, lane splitting is relatively safe. The majority of lane-splitting accidents occur when the motorcyclist is traveling too fast.

California lawmakers ultimately used the Berkeley study to support legislation that would allow lane splitting in the state. Lawmakers struck down language in its traffic statute that barred motorcyclists from riding between lanes in 2016. California did not technically pass a law permitting lane splitting, but it no longer prohibits it. California is neutral on lane splitting. Motorcyclists in the state have been able to ride between lanes without fear of penalty for the last three years.

When the state initially evoked its laws against lane splitting, the California Department of Motor Vehicles posted general guidelines for motorcyclists. Soon after, however, the California Highway Patrol removed the guidelines due to complaints that the state had no formal rulemaking process for lane splitting. Today, state lawmakers simply suggest to motorcyclists that they do not speed, assume people in vehicles see them, or ride in blind spots while splitting lanes.

Penalties for Lane Splitting in South Carolina

Despite changes in California law, South Carolina and the 48 remaining states still prohibit lane splitting. Motorcyclists cannot operate between traffic lanes in South Carolina. Doing so is a traffic infraction that could result in a ticket. If you cause or contribute to an accident while illegally lane splitting, you could be liable for damages. Since you broke the state’s traffic law, you could absorb legal responsibility for the wreck.

Do not assume, however, that you are at fault for a lane-splitting accident. The driver could also share fault for making an unsafe lane change, failing to use a blinker, or distracted driving. Do not admit fault after a motorcycle accident. Call the police and wait for an official investigation of liability. If you need assistance seeking compensation for your damages after an accident you did not cause, speak to a Greenville motorcycle accident attorney. Lane splitting may hurt your odds of financial recovery, but a lawyer can help you protect your rights.