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Is Lane Splitting Legal in Maryland?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 By

Lane splitting allows motorcycles, scooters, and other small vehicles to ride between lanes during slow traffic. It is a common practice in Europe where French and Italian drivers are more than accustomed to smaller vehicles passing them on the center lines.

However, this practice is not legal in Maryland. Most American drivers are not accustomed to lane splitting so if you take a chance and lane-split anyway, you risk an accident. Here is what you need to know about lane splitting and the effect it will have on your accident claim if you are injured while attempting it.

Law Overview

In Maryland, motorcycles are allowed the full use of a lane, just like larger motorized vehicles. They may even ride two abreast, a practice known as lane sharing. (There are states that do not allow lane sharing or lane splitting, so it is a good idea to check the laws before you and a friend take that multi-state road trip on your matching Harley-Davidsons.)

However, the only state where lane splitting is legal is California. Nevada nearly succeeded in legalizing it and Oregon is looking into similar legislation. But here on the East Coast, it appears lane splitting will not be considered for legalization anytime soon.

Risks of Lane Splitting

Lane splitting has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. There are well-documented studies that point out both sides.

A recent study from UC Berkeley indicates that lane splitting is safer for motorcycles and scooters. It reduces the incident of motorcycles causing rear-end collisions since sudden stops can place riders in danger. There are also fewer incidents in California of cars rear-ending motorcycles which decreases the rate of catastrophic injuries, including head trauma.

There is also a positive impact on congestion. Since lane splitting removes scooters and motorcycles from the regular traffic flow, it reduces congestion and gives smaller vehicles a larger buffer zone from cars and trucks.

However, this study concedes that the benefits are only present if traffic is moving at 50 mph or less and motorcycles do not exceed 15 mph. Other studies reveal that motorcyclists frequently drive too fast while lane splitting and common injuries arise from hitting side mirrors. Injuries may range from mild scratches to traumatic brain injuries after an impact causes the motorcycle to tumble and ricochet through traffic.

There are also visibility issues. As stated earlier, Americans are not accustomed to watching for motorcycles on the center lane. This is less of an issue with slow traffic, but if a rider is using lane splitting as a way to pass quickly, the chance of an accident increases. Also, on city streets, motorcyclists and scooter riders risk colliding with open vehicle doors, vehicles making a turn or being invisible to large trucks and vehicles making sudden lane changes.

Unfortunately, while lane splitting has advantages, your chances of an accident while doing it are fairly high. That often means injuries and insurance claims as even a low-impact accident can become serious when a motorcycle is involved.

Lane Splitting and Your Claim

Since lane splitting is illegal in Maryland, any accidents that occur while you do it will likely be presumed to be your fault. This is especially true if an officer reports to the scene and issues a ticket to you.

However, you may collect some damages if the other driver also behaved recklessly. For example, you may be waiting a light between lanes and a driver makes a sudden lane change. If that driver would have hit you even if you were in the lane properly, liability may be assigned primarily to that driver. For example, fault could be contributed 80 percent to that driver and 20 percent to you–allowing you to collect 80 percent of your allowed damages.

Even with that possibility, insurance companies will not give up easier. They want fault to lie with you entirely. Your settlement process will move slower than in more cut-and-dry cases as liability remains in dispute.  It is much more likely that the opposing insurance company will take your claim to court rather than settle.

If you sustained injuries while lane splitting on your scooter or motorcycle, consult with a personal injury attorney before you admit fault or accept a settlement. DuBoff & Associates, Chtd. are trial lawyers who are dedicated to helping motorcycles receive compensation for accident injuries. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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