motorcycle lane splitting

Motorcycle riders in South Carolina who get into accidents while riding between lines of traffic – a practice known as “lane-splitting” – should know that they may still be eligible to file and recover money from an insurance claim.

Now and then our S.C. motorcycle accident lawyers hear from riders injured in accidents caused by cars hitting or “dooring” them. The riders say they were moving between lines of congested traffic when the accident occurred. They fear that they have no recourse to file an injury claim. However, that is not necessarily the case.

Lane-splitting is not legal in South Carolina (SC Code Section 56-5-3640(c)). But, because of the way South Carolina decides fault and awards compensation in injury claims, a motorcyclist may still obtain a partial financial recovery in such an accident. You will certainly need the assistance of an experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney to present your strongest case for compensation. A lawyer from Joye Law Firm would like to discuss your case with you and advise you at no charge.

What is Lane-Splitting?

A motorcycle rider is lane-splitting when he or she rides between two vehicles or two lines of traffic headed in the same direction. A rider might ride along the dotted line separating two lanes on a multilane highway, for example. 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, in which two motorcyclists ride side-by-side in the same lane. South Carolina law expressly permits motorcyclists to ride two abreast in a single lane (SC Code Section 56-5-3640(a) and (d)).

The same statute provides that a motorcyclist not sharing with another motorcycle has the right to the full width of a traffic lane, making it illegal for a motorist to encroach on a motorcyclist’s lane.

Only California and Utah expressly permit motorcycle lane-splitting. The state of California adopted lane-splitting in 2016. Utah’s law addressing “lane filtering” went into effect this year.

Many states are silent on the practice of lane-splitting, which leaves some to argue it is therefore legal in those states.

Is Lane-Splitting Safe?

If you are a motorcyclist, you know that when a motorist runs into a motorcycle, the driver inevitably claims that he or she never saw the motorcycle. Every rider has heard such a story. And a motorcyclist who is lane-splitting is putting himself or herself in a position where a motorist is even less likely to look for them.

But lane-splitting often occurs in slow or stopped traffic, such as during rush-hour commutes. In South Carolina, a motorcyclist might resort to lane-splitting to avoid tourist congestion in an area such as Myrtle Beach or Charleston.

Supporters of lane-splitting say the practice allows motorcyclists to “avoid being rear-ended by distracted drivers in stop-and-go traffic,” according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

study by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California Berkeley found that lane-splitting riders were significantly less likely to be rear-ended than non-lane-splitting riders. Because lane-splitting motorcyclists are likely to be moving slowly, they “were much less often injured during their collisions.”

The Berkeley 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 percent of lane-splitting motorcyclists exceeded traffic speed by 15 mph or less and speed differentials up to 15 mph were not associated with changes in the frequency of injury.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which is a part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), supports lane-splitting, saying allowing motorcyclists to choose their position on a roadway can enable them to increase their visibility, avoid road surface hazards, maximize their view of traffic ahead, and maintain an escape route to avoid being trapped or struck from behind.

However, the AAA auto club opposes lane-splitting. Its clubs have helped defeat legislation to allow it in Georgia, Hawaii and Texas. “Motorists who don’t expect to be passed by a vehicle traveling between lanes can side-swipe a motorcycle or turn into its path,” said Richard Romer, AAA’s state relations manager.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety departments, doesn’t take a formal position on lane-splitting. But Richard Retting, a traffic safety consultant to the group, told Pew that lane-splitting is a risky activity.

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 and discuss your legal options.

South Carolina personal injury claims follow the legal doctrine of comparative negligence (SC Code Section 15-38-15). The share of blame of each participant in a vehicle accident is compared. If a case goes to court, a jury decides how much blame each party should bear for the accident. In a motorcycle accident, if the motorcyclist was 50 percent or least at fault for the severity of his or her injuries, he or she may still recover damages from others who were at-fault.

Therefore, a motorcyclist who engaged in lane-splitting may still be entitled to compensation, such as for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, though the overall amount the injured rider would receive could be reduced by the percentage of fault.

Let’s say you were lane-splitting through standstill traffic along Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand and a motorist made an illegal left turn and hit you. Your attorney could argue that it was the illegal left turn that caused the accident. Except for the illegal turn, you would have never been injured. The jury may conclude that the driver was 60 percent responsible for the accident and you were 40 percent at fault.

In such a case, a $100,000 award for damages would be reduced but still result in $60,000 for you.

As your legal advocates, Joye Law Firm would investigate the motorcycle accident to determine what happened and who had responsibility for your injuries. We would assemble all evidence favorable to you into a persuasive case. While each case stands on its own, our track record across South Carolina shows our experience with personal injury cases and we know how to do this successfully.

Contact Our South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Never take no for an answer from an insurance company after being injured in a motorcycle accident. Let Joye Law Firm review your case and your options in a free legal consultation. Motorcycle injury attorneys from our firm know South Carolina’s personal injury and comparative negligence laws and will fight to make an insurance company live up to its obligations to you.

We have offices in CharlestonMyrtle Beach, Clinton and Columbia and take motorcycle accident cases from across South Carolina. Contact us today.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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