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What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting, and Is It Legal in Michigan?

What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting, and Is It Legal in Michigan?

If you’ve ever strayed from the right path in life, you’ve probably been advised by someone who cares about you to “stay in your lane.” Following that advice can be smart, whether it’s offered at home, at work or in a social setting, but especially if you’re riding a motorcycle down a Michigan highway.

In this article we’re talking about a controversial practice called Motorcycle Lane Splitting. And while it’s legal in a handful of states it’s certainly prohibited in most — including Michigan. If you do lane split in Michigan, you’ll be subject to getting a traffic ticket for a moving violation, not to mention putting yourself at serious risk of being found responsible if you’re involved in an accident while splitting lanes.

So, with perfect springtime riding weather here at last, this is probably a very good time to take a moment to explain why motorcycle lane splitting is never allowed in Michigan – not to mention almost anywhere else nationwide.

What Does Lane Splitting Look Like in Practice?

Basically, lane splitting takes place on roads with more than one traffic lane traveling in a single direction. Woodward Avenue, Southfield Road, and Telegraph Road are good examples of this road layout, as are expressways and many of the Mile Roads crisscrossing the Detroit area. When slow-moving vehicles are all traveling the same direction, crafty motorcyclists can try to effectively “split the lane” by traveling along the painted white lines that divide lanes from one another, as the image below shows.

What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting, and Is It Legal in Michigan?

By splitting the lanes in this manner, riders can often zip around traffic delays. Plus, if traffic suddenly slows down or comes to a stop, bikers occupying the so-called “safe zone” between cars may be able to avoid being rear-ended by inattentive drivers – a danger which regularly puts innocent motorcyclists into the hospital. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests that “traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.”

At least that’s the theory. However, riders who choose to go between lanes are also putting themselves at risk if bigger vehicles’ drivers unexpectedly decide to change lanes and don’t see bikers riding along the white lines. What’s more, widely projecting side-view mirrors on many vehicles may also pose a threat to riders who could be forcefully thrown from their motorcycles if they inadvertently clip one. Then there are the children and dogs who happily and habitually stick their heads and limbs out of car windows, putting yet another potential set of obstacles in the way of lane-splitting motorcyclists.

Finally let’s face it, some bikers ride far too fast in just about any traffic situation, and this habit usually doesn’t stop when they’re splitting lanes, putting almost everyone on the road at unnecessary risk. For these reasons and more, most states – including Michigan and many of our neighbors – explicitly ban motorcycle lane splitting. And just a few states permit a watered-down version called “lane filtering.”

What Counts as “Lane Filtering??

As opposed to lane splitting, a safer alternative might be lane filtering, which can happen when traffic comes to a complete stop at a red light or due to road congestion, allowing motorcycles to approach the traffic signal or move ahead of other vehicles by traveling betweenstopped vehicles. Since no larger vehicles are moving in this situation, lane filtering is considered less risky than full-blown lane splitting. But in Michigan (and again, in most other states) even lane filtering is specifically against the law. That’s because it could surprise unwary drivers, and lead to more dangerous commutes. (It could even end up resulting in a road rage incident like this one that happened in Texas).

Can Two Motorcycles Ride Side-by-Side in One Lane?

Imagine you’re out on a peaceful afternoon ride through the Michigan countryside, spending the day with a loved one by your side. It’s really much more fun when you can share a lane together rather than following each other single file. Well, the good news is that according to Michigan law, it’s entirely fine to ride two abreast in a single lane. Just be sure you’ve agreed to your destination ahead of time to avoid any confusion, use turn signals and appropriate hand gestures to let your riding partner know your intentions if you plan to turn or change lanes, and enjoy your journey together.

Who’s Responsible for Accidents Caused by Lane Splitting?

Since it’s not permitted in Michigan, offending motorcyclists will likely be ticketed and found liable for collisions caused by lane splitting. Of course, if a car’s driver intentionally opens a door to prevent a biker from passing or attempts in other ways to interfere with a motorcyclist who’s occupying a regular traffic lane, the story is entirely different. Remember that while lane splitting is illegal, Michigan law says “a motorcyclist is entitled to full use of a lane, and a motor vehicle must not be driven in such a manner as to deprive a motorcycle of the full use of a lane.” So, if you drive a car or truck, do the right thing: share the road with bikers.

What if I’m Injured in a Motorcycle-Related Crash?

We hope that won’t ever happen to you. But if it does, you definitely have friends in Southfielddowntown Detroitthe west sideSterling Heights, or really anywhere you happen to be across Michigan. Just call 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or contact us online, and we’ll be there to help you pick up the pieces and receive fair compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve experienced.