Is Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Legal in Florida?
Motorcycles are smaller, narrower, and generally more maneuverable than standard passenger vehicles. Due to their nature, many motorcyclists irresponsibly choose to engage in dangerous maneuvers on the road, taking advantage of their bikes’ smaller frames to weave in and out of traffic like no other vehicle can. One maneuver that is legal in some states is lane-splitting, and the term describes any time a motorcyclist passes between two lanes of slower or stopped traffic. Although some states do not consider lane-splitting illegal, Florida is not one of them. Motorcyclists in Florida should understand the law concerning lane splitting and acknowledge the various risks of engaging in lane-splitting.
Dangers of Lane-Splitting
Many motorcyclists use their vehicles’ small size, quick acceleration, and maneuverability to skirt through slower-moving traffic regardless of the increased risk of finding themselves in a motorcycle accident. Some states do not have laws prohibiting lane-splitting, and Florida law allows lane-sharing, or bikers riding side-by-side in the same lane. Florida law only allows lane-sharing for two motorcycles, and lane-sharing can be practical in some situations. For example, driving at night side-by-side would make two motorcyclists more visible to other nearby drivers.
While some motorcyclists may feel comfortable lane-splitting with larger vehicles, the practice is extremely dangerous for several reasons:
- Motorcycles are smaller than passenger cars and therefore harder to see. Drivers should be keenly aware of their “blind spots” behind and to the sides while driving. Vehicles can sometimes pass through another driver’s blind spot as the driver makes a lane change, especially small vehicles. It’s crucial for motorcyclists to mind other drivers’ blind spots and proceed with caution, as other drivers may not catch them in time to stop a lane change or turn.
- Lane-splitting is especially dangerous in areas with multiple lanes of turning traffic. While lane-splitting on a very straight road may seem safe, maintaining a turn while lane-splitting is sometimes more difficult than it appears and can make it harder for other drivers to gauge their distance.
- Passing close between other moving vehicles poses the risk of bumping into them. Even slight bumps are incredibly dangerous at higher speeds. A small collision with another vehicle to one side can easily throw a motorcycle off balance, sending it crashing between the lanes. A bump could also startle a driver and cause him or her to swerve, creating another opportunity for an accident.
Liability After a Lane-Splitting Accident
Lane-splitting is illegal in Florida, so any motorcyclist who has an accident while lane-splitting will more than likely face most, if not all of the liability for the crash. Motorcyclists have very little protection from external forces, and a lane-splitting crash between lanes of traffic can lead to catastrophic or fatal injuries. Motorcyclists that survive and incur liability for these accidents face a significant financial burden and long-term insurance issues.
In some cases, a motorcyclist may argue he or she couldn’t avoid lane-splitting. For example, swerving between two lanes to avoid crashing into another vehicle could be justifiable. The court would examine traffic cameras, skid marks from the scene, and other evidence to determine the motorcyclist’s degree of fault. Since Florida operates under a pure comparative negligence law, anyone involved in a lane-splitting accident could secure at least partial compensation for their damages through personal injury claims. Lane-sharing is illegal in Florida and can lead to complicated legal battles, so motorcyclists should avoid the practice at all times unless absolutely necessary. SteinLaw can help answer any questions you might have about motorcycle accidents involving lane-splitting.