Can Motorcycles Cut Through Traffic Jams? Here's What the Highway Code Says

Can Motorcycles Cut Through Traffic Jams? Here's What the Highway Code Says

We often see motorcycles cutting through traffic jams, passing between stationary cars, but is this practice legal? The answer is... it depends.

The practice where motorcyclists ride between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic is referred to as lane splitting or filtering. Doing this allows motorcycles to move through busy areas quicker than cars that are restricted to staying in their lanes.

You may have found yourself sitting in traffic and being passed by a motorcyclist and left wondering if this was actually legal. Ultimately it depends on where you live. In the US, some states allow this practice, in others it is illegal. In the UK filtering is perfectly legal. 

California is currently the only state that explicitly allows lane splitting. It is recognized as a way of reducing traffic and improving road safety for motorcyclists. In Utah, Arizona and Montana lane filtering is legalized, allowing motorcyclists to move between lanes of stopped or slow moving vehicles, but only when traffic is slow or not moving. 

For the rest of the United States, lane splitting is illegal. However in recent years, there have been arguments for legalizing the practice in more states to improve road safety for motorcyclists. 

One of the main arguments for allowing lane splitting is to reduce the risks of motorcyclists being hit from behind, alongside with enhancing traffic flow in increasingly congested cities, and helping save time. 

Lane splitting is usually performed at lower speeds to ensure safety. Lane splitting doesn't apply to recklessly overtaking between cars at high speeds, this is unnecessarily dangerous.

Safety concerns have been raised due to the potential for accidents if car drivers are not aware of or do not anticipate motorcyclists splitting lanes. Having different laws depending on the state can be confusing for both motorcyclists and drivers alike. A unified approach would be beneficial for increased clarity. 

In the states where lane splitting is still illegal, fines can range from $100 to $300 for a first offense. The exact amounts will depend on state and local laws, the severity of the traffic violation and if you are a repeat offender.