Florida’s highways and byways offer nearly endless adventures for motorcyclists. Whether you are using two wheels for your daily commute or you break out the beast for weekend excursions, there’s no shortage of sites to see in the Sunshine State.
But there are also numerous laws of which to be aware – and these tend to be very different than those in most other states. Welcome to Florida! Some of these regulations deal with lane splitting and lane sharing. What’s the difference – and what do you need to know before you put rubber to the road?
What Would You Do?
You’re sitting in traffic, watching congestion move nowhere. Then you see a truck barreling down on you. What do you do? You get out of the way! You might weave between two lanes of stopped traffic in order to avoid a collision.
It makes sense, but this maneuver, called “lane splitting,” is illegal in Florida. In fact, California is the odd one out there; it is currently the only state that allows lane splitting, though at least 15 other states are considering legislation that would legalize splitting.
Why does California allow lane splitting? Because research shows that it reduces rear-end collisions, which, if you’re a motorcyclists, you know can be deadly. It may also contribute to a decrease in overall congestion.
As the American Motorcycle Association puts it: “Perhaps one of the most dangerous situations for any on-highway motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions pose an increased risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard… Even minor contact under such conditions can be disastrous for motorcyclists.”
The problem, though, is that when inexperienced motorcyclists attempt lane splitting or when riders do so at excessive speeds, the technique can be dangerous in itself.
Further, drivers, already somewhat “blind” to motorcycles, may not spot a lane splitting situation and be able to react accordingly. Add to this the tendency of four-wheeled drivers to change lanes suddenly without signalling. This can put the motorcyclist at risk as well.
Splitting and the Law
What happens if you do a lane-splitting maneuver and a collision occurs? Likely, you will be held responsible for the accident. As a result, you will not be able to receive damages.
There are exceptions to this general rule, however, and it is important to understand them.
Say that you engaged in lane splitting and you have a collision with a car. You may be able to mitigate your liability or seek legal remedy if the other driver contributed to the accident. If, for example, the driver was talking on a cell phone, it can make a big difference in your case.
Other important factors that can be taken into consideration:
- Your experience as a motorcyclist.
- Whether you have completed a motorcycle safety course. (In Florida, new riders are required to pass the Basic Rider Course, offered by the Florida Rider Training Program.)
- Whether lane-splitting was done to avoid a more dangerous situation (e.g. a collision with a distracted driver or one who was speeding and about to hit you from behind).
What should you do if you’ve been in an accident where lane splitting was a factor? After you call law enforcement and seek medical attention, contact an experienced West Palm Beach motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. They have state-specific knowledge of the laws and can help ensure that your rights are fully protected.
If you are able to in the immediate aftermath of the accident, try to collect as much evidence as possible. Take pictures of the scene with your phone, making sure to document skid marks, weather conditions, road signs, etc. If possible, collect the names and contact information of any witnesses. This evidence can help corroborate your version of events and enable your legal team builds a strong, well-researched case.
What about Lane Sharing?
What does the law say about “lane sharing”? This is when two motorcycles utilize the same lane side-by-side. This is legal in Florida and most other jurisdictions – if there are only two motorcycles.
As always when riding a motorcycle, use caution when lane sharing.
The Bottom Line on Lane Splitting
Lane splitting can be dangerous, and it is illegal in the state of Florida. It is best to avoid this maneuver and ride with all due caution. That said, if you have been involved in an accident where you were forced to split due to the actions of another driver, road conditions, or other factors, contact a West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer immediately. Your rights, your finances, and most importantly, your health and safety, are on the line.
The LaBovick Law Group has decades of experience in personal injury law and with motorcycle cases specifically. Do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation if you have been harmed in an accident. We are here to help.