Lane splitting, also called lane filtering, is a hotly debated topic among state lawmakers, the motorcycle community and motor vehicle drivers. Lane splitting has become a point of contention due to disagreements on whether or not it is safe for motorcyclists and the surrounding traffic. Lane splitting is not expressly illegal in Missouri, but it is viewed as a dangerous practice that should be avoided. It is somewhat of a gray area in Missouri law.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting describes a practice where a motorcyclist rides on the line between two lanes of same-direction traffic. When there are multiple lanes of traffic moving in the same direction and a motorcyclist travels between two of these lanes, rather than staying in one lane behind other vehicles, the motorcyclist is splitting or filtering through the lanes. This practice may be done to save time, avoid being stuck in traffic or decrease the risk of the motorcycle being hit by another driver in a rear-end collision. It can also help keep the motorcycle out of a driver’s blind spot when passing.
Can Motorcyclists Lane Split in Missouri?
Yes and no. Although lane splitting is not technically against the law in Missouri, it is not viewed as a best practice and could get a motorcyclist in trouble, depending on the circumstances. Missouri law does not specifically allow or disallow lane splitting. It is simply not mentioned in Missouri law, meaning it is not prohibited nor permitted. It exists in a gray area, with each situation being decided on a case-by-case basis.
The Revisor of Missouri Section 304.015, Part 5, states that when a road has been divided into three or more lanes, a vehicle must be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane. The vehicle can only move from its lane when a driver has ascertained that the movement can be made safely. A vehicle should only be driven in the center lane, rather than the lane farthest to the right, when passing another vehicle.
This law does not expressly prohibit a motorcyclist from riding on the line between two lanes of traffic. If a motorcyclist lane splits in a way that is reckless or dangerous, however, the motorcyclist may face penalties for doing so, such as a traffic citation and fine or liability for a related traffic accident.
Which States Allow Lane Splitting?
As of 2021, only three states have altered their laws to specifically permit motorcyclists to lane split: California, Utah and Hawaii. California was the first state to authorize lane splitting by removing language from its existing law that prohibited riding between lanes. It did this after a study from UC Berkeley, published in 2015, concluded that lane splitting is relatively safe when done at reasonable speeds. Utah was the next state to authorize lane splitting, followed by Hawaii.
What if a Motorcycle Accident Is Caused by Lane Splitting?
Part of why lane splitting has not been expressly permitted in all 50 states is dangers connected to the close proximity of the lane-splitting motorcyclist and surrounding vehicles. This does not leave a lot of room to maneuver out of the way if there is a hazard, such as a driver merging on top of the motorcyclist. If an accident occurs while lane splitting, one or both parties involved could be at fault for the crash.
In Missouri, lane splitting does not automatically place liability for an accident with the motorcyclist. The motor vehicle driver may also be at fault for the collision, depending on the circumstances. An investigation into which party was not where they should have been at the time of the collision will be necessary. If a motor vehicle driver was changing lanes without signaling or making sure it was safe, for example, the driver could be responsible for colliding with a motorcyclist. If the motorcyclist was lane splitting in a way that was unreasonably dangerous, however, he or she could be liable.