Lane splitting is the action of driving a motorcycle between lanes or in-between slowly moving or stopped cars while driving in the same direction. Often, people refer to lane splitting as lane trimming, stripe-riding, or white-lining.
Despite the fact that the Texas Motorcycle Law doesn’t specifically address the problem, one of the principal traffic statutes for every vehicle in the state of Texas insinuates that “lane splitting” is illegal. This is the sum of what’s mentioned in the Texas traffic statute, regarding lane splitting:
A user of a car, driving on the roadway split into two or greater, obviously marked lanes of traffic are to drive completely within an individual lane, and may not move from the lane unless that motion can be produced safely. Because motorcycles are considered to be comparable to passenger automobiles, if a motorcyclist is caught by police splitting lanes, this statute may be taken into account and punishment may ensue.
This statute was put into place because lane splitting is the reason for a large amount of the motorcycle accidents that occur on the Texas highways. A study was conducted on motorcycle fatalities vs. passenger car fatalities back in 2015 by the Texas Department of Transportation. Stats for that year showed that motorcycle accidents produced a very large number of deaths when compared to the deaths of those that were in passenger cars at the time of an accident.
Out of the 473,162 passengers that were in cars that had accidents, 1,703 were linked to fatalities, which is less than 1%. In contrast, there were only 8,181 motorcycle accidents in total but about 5% of motorcycle accidents ended in death, with a count of 459 (that’s 436 operators and 23 passengers).
Those stats show a vibrant picture of precisely how risky motorcycling can be in comparison to driving or riding in a passenger vehicle, especially with Texas lane splitting being so popular on the highways of major cities within the state.
Legislation and Lane Splitting
In Austin, TX, Senator Kirk Watson filed TX SB288 in January of 2016 that would allow motorcyclists to ride between cars at no more than 20 miles per hour. It’s been argued that motorcyclists should be allowed to go through traffic when it’s at a standstill, as long as it’s a safe speed. The bill is currently in a “referred to Transportation status” and still needs to be approved before moving forward, though.
This is actually the third time a like bill has been brought to the Texas Legislature. The last bill that the senator introduced did not make it to a hearing and a very similar bill was brought up in 2009 by another former senator but didn’t make it to the House.
We will have to wait to find out if the bill will pass for Texas lane splitting but until then, studies show exactly why lane splitting continues to be illegal in the state of Texas at this time.