Motorcyclists are not as visible as other vehicles on the road. Various road hazards also have a greater potential to cause accidents to motorcyclists. A full-size car may barely notice a pothole in the road, while it can easily cause a motorcycle to crash. When there is room for the motorcycle to maneuver, it allows the rider to avoid road hazards while increasing visibility to the other vehicles. This can involve a motorcyclist driving in between two lanes of traffic, which is a practice called lane splitting and is currently unlawful in 49 out of 50 states, including New York.
Some people say that lane-splitting would allow motorcyclists to avoid accidents, to be safer on the road. Others aren’t so certain. Either way, motorcycle accidents can happen in New York City, whether someone is lane splitting or not, and injured victims should always consult with an experienced Bronx motorcycle accident attorney about their rights.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is a practice where a motorcycle rides between the lanes of stopped traffic or slow-moving vehicles while traveling in the same direction. It is sometimes also known as stripe riding, filtering, white lining, or lane sharing.
Lane splitting is a controversial practice in the United States. At this time, California is the only state that has legalized lane splitting. There has been little research on the safety of this practice. Some other countries have made it legal, but the evidence that lane splitting prevents accidents or contributes to them is inconclusive. Each side of the debate has strong opinions, and the issue is under hot debat.
As with many contested issues, lane splitting comes with possible benefits, such as avoiding road hazards or stopped traffic that could result in motorcycle crashes and injuries. On the other hand, lane splitting can lead to motorcycle accidents.
The Risks of Lane Splitting
There are several specific risks that a motorcyclist can encounter while lane splitting.
While some believe that under certain circumstances, lane splitting can improve the safety of the rider, there are some serious hazards that a motorcyclist might encounter:
- Other cars on the road may make sudden lane changes.
- A driver of a stopped or parked vehicle may open his or her door unexpectedly, and the motorcyclist may hit it.
- Drivers in certain cities and states tend to be more aggressive. New York City drivers are notorious for their aggressive driving.
- The lanes on New York City streets are typically quite narrow, making lane splitting hazardous.
- NYC traffic is very heavy, in both the city and on the highways.
- Traffic on NYC highways tends to be heavy and fast-moving.
- Most motorcyclists do not know the correct way to lane split. They don’t do it in the proper lanes, and they do it at speeds that are much too fast.
- A motorcycle is almost invisible to tractor-trailers and larger vehicles. Lane splitting could make it even more dangerous for a motorcyclist riding by or passing a large vehicle.
U.C. Berkeley Study on Lane Splitting
One study analyzed data from the California Enhanced Motorcycle Collision Data Project. It examined 5,969 motorcyclists involved in accidents (specifically, the prevalence of lane splitting and resulting injuries). Of the motorcycle accidents, 17 percent (997) were lane splitting when they had their accident.
The researchers drew several conclusions from the data, including the observation that motorcyclists seem to be least likely to be in an accident or suffer injuries when they maintain a 10 to 15 mph differential from the other vehicles on the road and are riding in traffic that is moving at less than 50 miles per hour.
While this study did not lead New York or any other states to legalize lane splitting, it shows that there are many risks of motorcycle accidents in faster-moving traffic or when a motorcyclist is traveling significantly faster than other vehicles.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in NYC?
Currently, lane splitting is illegal in New York.
When it comes to ensuring that motorcyclists are safe on the road, state traffic laws are very important, and New York has several laws in place regarding motorcyclists. For instance, all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet. It does not matter their level of experience, their age, or whether they are a passenger or the driver, they must wear a helmet under New York motorcycle law.
When it comes to lane usage, state law does say that all motorcyclists can use the entire lane even though they do not use or take up the entire lane. This means that a car or truck on the road cannot violate the motorcyclist’s space just because they don’t fill the entire lane. For instance, a car cannot pass a motorcycle on the other half of the bike’s lane. It must treat the motorcycle as if it actually takes up the full lane. In this same vein, treating a motorcycle as if it takes up the entire lane naturally transitions into lane splitting.
Motorcycle Accidents Still Happen Without Lane Splitting
Even if a motorcyclist abides by all NYC traffic laws and never lane splits, other drivers can violate the law and cause an accident.
Some of the top causes of motorcycle crashes and injuries in New York City include:
- Distracted driving
- Traffic suddenly stopping short
- Impaired driving
- Fatigued driving
- Aggressive driving
Anyone who drives in the NY metropolitan area knows that drivers can be dangerous and impatient. This can increase the risk they will hit a motorcyclist.
Whether someone is riding on the JFK Expressway, FDR Drive, or any of New York City’s busy streets or highways, drivers commonly make sudden maneuvers. A driver might be in a hurry and constantly changing lanes to avoid stopped traffic. If that driver fails to check their mirrors and does not see a motorcyclist in the next lane, the car can slam into the motorcycle if the motorcyclist holds their lane.
On the other hand, even if the motorcyclist moves out of the lane to lane split to avoid a collision, they then run the risk of an accident due to lane splitting. This is often a no-win situation for the motorcyclist, as they risk a crash either way.
Know Your Rights After a Motorcycle Accident
When a negligent driver injures a motorcyclist, the motorcyclist should know their rights to compensation. In New York, motorcyclists do not have the same protections under no-fault insurance laws, so the claim process will look different than following a car accident. The injured motorcyclist will likely have to seek compensation from the at-fault driver.
Some drivers might try to avoid liability by claiming that a motorcyclist was lane splitting or engaging in another type of reckless riding, and this is something you want your NYC motorcycle accident attorney to address. If you deserve compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, you should have the right legal representation from a lawyer who understands the complex motorcycle and insurance laws in New York.
Speak With a New York City Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
At The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond, we understand the pain and stress that a person can face when they suffer injuries in an accident. That’s why we work hard to ensure that our clients get top-notch personal care and attention from the first time they call our office until their case resolves. Call today and schedule a free consultation with a Bronx personal injury accident attorney, or contact us online. Don’t wait another day to get justice following your motorcycle crash.