motorcycle lane splitting

Our South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers often hear from bikers injured in all kinds of accidents. Sometimes the motorcycle accidents occurred while they were riding between lines of traffic – a practice known as lane splitting – leaving them to wonder if they are still eligible to file and recover money from an insurance claim. As lawyers love to say, “It depends.”

Lane splitting is illegal in South Carolina (SC Code Section 56-5-3640(c)). However, due to South Carolina’s method of determining fault and allocating compensation in injury claims, a motorcyclist involved in a lane splitting accident may still be eligible for partial financial restitution.

To build a strong compensation case, you’ll need the support of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. At Joye Law Firm, we’re ready to discuss your case and provide advice in a free consultation.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting involves a motorcycle rider driving between two vehicles or two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. For example, a rider might ride along the dotted line separating two lanes on a multilane highway. Riders often split lanes in slow-moving or standstill traffic. The maneuver is sometimes called “filtering,” “white-lining,” or “stripe-riding.”

Lane splitting should not be confused with lane-sharing, where two motorcyclists ride side-by-side in the same lane. South Carolina law permits motorcyclists to ride two abreast in a single lane (SC Code Section 56-5-3640(a) and (d)).

This statute also states that a motorcyclist riding alone has the right to use the entire width of a traffic lane. Therefore, it is illegal for a motorist to infringe upon a motorcyclist’s lane space.

Is Lane- Splitting Safe?

A motorcyclist might resort to lane splitting in South Carolina to avoid tourist congestion in areas like Myrtle Beach or Charleston. Some believe it is a safe practice, while others disagree.

Support for Lane Splitting

Supporters of lane splitting say the practice allows motorcyclists to avoid rear-end accidents by distracted drivers in congested traffic. A 2015 study found that lane splitting riders were less likely to be rear-ended than non-lane splitting riders, and suffered fewer serious injuries during collisions due to their low speed.

The study also suggests that lane splitting is safe if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph. Researchers found that 69% of lane splitting motorcyclists exceeded traffic speed by 15 mph or less. Speed differentials up to 15 mph were not associated with changes in injury frequency.

Proponents of lane splitting further argue that allowing motorcyclists to choose their position on a roadway can enhance their visibility, dodge road surface hazards, improve their view of the traffic ahead, and keep an escape route open to avoid being trapped or hit from behind.

Lane Splitting Opposition

Lane splitting also faces opposition from groups such as the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Officially, the AAA auto club stands against lane splitting, with its affiliates actively contributing to the defeat of legislation permitting it in states like Georgia, Hawaii, and Texas.

The GHSA remains neutral on the practice, but a traffic safety consultant to the group has stated that lane splitting is risky.

What to Do if You’re Involved in a Lane Splitting Crash:

If you’re involved in a lane splitting crash, you can take steps to protect your rights to compensation. Take the following actions to preserve evidence, and contact us to get the legal advice you need:

  • Dial 911: Immediately after the crash, call 911. This alerts law enforcement and emergency medical services, helping you receive assistance. It also creates an official accident report. You can obtain this report from the local law enforcement agency that responded to your crash, or the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV).
  • Gather Evidence: If possible, take photographs of the accident scene. This should include all vehicles involved, road conditions, debris, skid marks, and visible injuries. Collect contact information from witnesses and other drivers for future insurance claims or legal action.
  • Seek Medical Help: Visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible, even if you don’t initially feel injured. This ensures you get medical treatment for hidden injuries like brain trauma or organ damage. You will also need medical records to prove your injuries and connect them to the accident.
  • Contact an Attorney: Consult with a skilled attorney regarding your case. Although lane splitting is illegal, you may still be able to seek compensation. Our experienced lawyers at Joye Law Firm can help explore your options and advocate for your right to compensation.

What an S.C. Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Do After a Lane Splitting Accident

If you were ticketed for lane splitting when police responded to your motorcycle accident, you can expect the insurance company to deny your claim. As with most insurance claim denials, you should have an experienced attorney look at the case. Despite what the insurance company says, you may still have a rightful claim.  An attorney can advise you about all your legal options.

South Carolina personal injury claims follow comparative negligence (SC Code Section 15-38-15). This means each party can share blame in a vehicle accident. If a case goes to court, a jury decides how much liability each party should bear for the accident.

If a motorcyclist is 50% or less at fault, they may still recover damages from the other liable party, even if they were lane splitting. This means they could receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

For example, if you were in the Grand Strand lane splitting through standstill traffic along Myrtle Beach’s infamous King’s Highway, and a motorist made an illegal left turn and hit you, your attorney could argue that the illegal left turn caused the accident. Except for the illegal turn, you would have never been injured.

As your legal advocate, Joye Law Firm will thoroughly investigate the motorcycle accident to determine what happened and who is truly responsible. While each case stands on its own, our track record across South Carolina shows our experience successfully representing bikers injured due to the negligence of other motorists.

In one recent case, Attorney Sydney Lynn represented an Upstate man who suffered a traumatic brain injury and broken bones in a T-bone collision where a car pulled out in front of his motorcycle. Through skillful negotiation, she was able to negotiate a $1.35 Million settlement for her client.

In another case, we recovered a $750,000 settlement for a client who broke both of her legs when her motorcycle was rear-ended.

Overview of Motorcycle Laws in South Carolina

Understanding the state’s motorcycle laws can help you prevent an accident and preserve your rights if you’re in a crash. Here are a few laws you should know:

  • Helmets: In South Carolina, motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet approved by the Department of Highways and Public Transportation. Even if you’re over 21, consider wearing your helmet. Not only could it save your life, but it also shows the insurance company that you’re committed to safety.
  • Licensing Requirements: You must have a motorcycle (Class M) driver’s license to ride legally in South Carolina. To qualify, you must pass a road test administered by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV), or submit a Motorcycle Safety Foundation skills test certificate from an approved training program.
  • Safety Regulations: In South Carolina, motorcycle operators must ride only on the permanent seat attached to the motorcycle, and are required to keep both hands on the handlebars when driving. Also, motorcycles must be equipped with footrests for passengers and rearview mirrors.

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists:

Enjoying a motorcycle ride on the open road means paying close attention and following safety rules. Here are a few safety tips for motorcycle riders:

  • Always wear appropriate safety gear, including a DOT-approved helmet, eye protection, gloves, and protective clothing.
  • Maintain visibility by wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing. Use lights during both daytime and nighttime riding.
  • Ride defensively and anticipate potential hazards by scanning the road ahead. Stay aware of surrounding traffic.
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, and avoid riding in their blind spots.
  • Practice smooth and controlled braking, to avoid skidding or losing control of the motorcycle.
  • Stay updated on weather conditions, and adjust your riding accordingly. Avoid riding in poor weather whenever possible.

Contact Our South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Never take no for an answer from an insurance company, especially after being injured in a motorcycle accident. Let Joye Law Firm review your case and options in a free legal consultation.

Our motorcycle injury attorneys know South Carolina’s personal injury and comparative negligence laws, and we will fight to make an insurance company live up to its obligations to you.

We have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, Summerville, and Columbia and take motorcycle accident cases from across South Carolina. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Originally published October 25, 2019. Updated April 1, 2024.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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