Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?

“Lane splitting” is the action of driving a motorcycle in between lanes on at least a two-lane highway or urban road. Lane splitting, or lane filtering, has been a long-standing practice by many motorcyclists in Texas. Those for lane splitting as a legal driving technique believe it increases the safety of motorcyclists by preventing rear-end collisions. They also vouch for its ability to reduce traffic congestion on Houston’s busy highways. Those against the method say it’s dangerous for the rider and other motor vehicle drivers. The laws in the Lone Star State don’t technically fall on either side of the argument, leaving many confused about its legality.

Texas Transportation Code Section 545.060

The law in Texas does not directly address lane-splitting one way or the other. One section called “Driving on Roadway Laned for Traffic” simply states that vehicle operators (including motorcyclists) must “drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.” The law states that motorists may only move from the lane when it’s safe to do so. Several other roadway statutes may come into play when considering lane splitting. Signaling, yielding right of way, and obeying other rules may all enter the discussion about lane splitting’s legality in Texas.

Texas law considers motorcycles the same as motor vehicles. This presents an issue with lane splitting since typical passenger cars cannot engage in this practice. Many motorcycle enthusiasts and some lawmakers believe that since lane splitting is a unique opportunity to only motorcyclists, there should be exceptions made for these smaller vehicles. So far, however, the state of California is the only one to have passed official laws legalizing lane splitting, within certain limitations.

In California, lane-splitting motorcyclists may not surpass speeds of 15 miles per hour faster than surrounding traffic. The law prohibits lane splitting at speeds over 50 miles per hour in the state. If Texas was to take California’s law as an example, Texans could expect similar lane-splitting regulations such as speed limitations. There are currently two bills in front of the Texas State Senate regarding lane splitting. As of today, no laws have passed that specifically make lane-splitting legal.

Penalties for Lane Splitting in Texas

If caught driving between lanes on Texas roadways, motorcyclists could face traffic penalties and fines. Texas law currently does not permit lane splitting in any form. Therefore, motorcyclists who engage in this practice are guilty of illegal passing. Police may issue traffic tickets for illegal passing and add penalties for reckless driving and other broken laws depending on the circumstances.

If a motorcyclist gets into an accident while lane splitting, he or she may face liability for subsequent damages. The other party involved could allege that the motorcyclist was guilty of negligence for breaking Texas’ roadway laws. Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that the plaintiff may still recover if he/she was partially responsible for the crash. A motorcyclist could receive a reduced compensation award if the courts assign him/her a percentage of fault for lane splitting. If the motorcyclist’s share of fault is more than 51%, he/she loses the opportunity to recover anything. Until and if Texas legalizes lane splitting, motorcyclists will be better off staying inside their lanes.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle crash, contact Houston motorcycle accident attorney Brian White to review your legal options.