Lane splitting, also called lane sharing or lane filtering, is the act of riding between two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction, on a motorcycle. It is illegal in the state of West Virginia, as it is everywhere except California. Lane splitting in West Virginia is a traffic infraction that could lead to a ticket, fines, and liability for a collision. Learn more by speaking with a West Virginia motorcycle accident attorney.
About Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Lane splitting is a controversial subject among motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike. People who support lane splitting believe it can help clear traffic and keep motorcyclists safer. Motorcycles can move more quickly through stopped traffic, avoid rear-end collisions, and get off highways faster. Those who oppose lane splitting argue that it puts motorcyclists’ lives in danger by making them more vulnerable to lane-change accidents. They also assert that the practice can startle surrounding drivers, increasing the risk of an accident.
The Motorcycle Operator Manual in West Virginia states that riding between rows of stopped or moving vehicles can make a motorcyclist vulnerable to accidents and injuries. It lists potential hazards as drivers opening car doors, hands coming out of windows, or vehicles turning suddenly. It encourages motorcyclists not to lane split, and says to keep a center lane position if drivers try to squeeze past.
If you lane split in West Virginia, you are technically breaking the law. You could face a traffic citation, a hefty fine, and penalties against your motorcycle license. Even if someone else crashes into you while lane splitting, you could bear at least partial responsibility for unlawfully riding between lanes. Follow the rules and do not lane split to keep yourself and others safe.
Liability for Lane-Splitting Accidents in West Virginia
If a motorcyclist lane splits in West Virginia and gets into an accident, he or she may not have grounds to pursue compensation from anyone. The courts would likely hold the motorcyclist responsible for the crash, or at least bar the plaintiff from recovery, for breaking the state’s lane-splitting rule. A defendant could use the broken law as a comparative negligence defense against the plaintiff.
West Virginia follows comparative negligence laws. As long as the plaintiff is less than 50% at fault for the crash, he or she will still be eligible for damages. Lane splitting could bring the plaintiff’s fault above 50%. It could diminish or eliminate the plaintiff’s opportunity for financial recovery for damages. Minimizing your degree of fault for a lane-splitting accident may be possible with help from a lawyer.
California’s Precedent for Lane-Splitting Laws
California is the first and only state to remove legislation that prohibits lane splitting. Although the state technically did not legalize lane splitting, it is no longer illegal. Upon making the legislative change, the California Department of Motor Vehicles published general lane-splitting guidelines. The office later removed the information, however, after a petitioner raised an objection, stating the guidelines did not come with any formal rulemaking process.
Today, the state of California urges motorcyclists to use common sense in terms of safety while lane splitting. Motorcyclists can move between vehicles, but they should do so without speeding or traveling over 15 miles per hour faster than surrounding motor vehicles. Motorcyclists should also drive defensively, and assume other drivers do not see them. They should not hover overlong in blind-spot zones, such as next to large commercial vehicles.
Is Lane Splitting in West Virginia’s Future?
Although some states have taken action toward legalizing lane splitting, so far, West Virginia legislators have not drafted any statewide lane-splitting laws. Lane splitting remains illegal in West Virginia, and could result in traffic fines and penalties. If you get into a motorcycle accident while lane splitting, hire an attorney to help protect any rights you may have to compensation.