While lane splitting is common in many countries worldwide, the United States leaves traffic laws in the hands of each state.
This means that each state gets to decide what motorist behaviors are legal or not. A surprisingly low number of states allow for lane splitting.
So, Is It Legal in Illinois?
No, lane splitting is not legal in Illinois. You can be stopped and penalized for the practice.
While a few states like California expressly allow lane splitting, many states simply do not address the specific practice at all, requiring the interpretation of other parts of the code to determine its legality. Others, like New York and Florida, have specific statutes banning it.
Illinois is somewhere in the middle. The state law that effectively prohibits lane splitting is 625 ILCS 5/11-703(c), which states:
“The driver of a 2 wheeled vehicle may not, in passing upon the left of any vehicle proceeding in the same direction, pass upon the right of any vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless there is an unobstructed lane of traffic available to permit such passing maneuver safely.”
In other words, to pass a car while on a motorcycle in Illinois, you must have your own dedicated lane. This means no lane splitting.
Additionally, law enforcement can stop and cite motorcyclists for breaking right-of-way laws and reckless driving laws for lane splitting.
Future of Lane Splitting in Illinois
Many motorcyclists in Illinois, especially those around Chicago where highway traffic is dense, would like to see lane splitting legalized.
There have been petitions and online groups dedicated to changing the laws, and in 2006, a bill was proposed to amend the state code to allow for lane splitting. However, it died in the State Senate in 2007.
It doesn’t appear that lane splitting will be legalized in Illinois for many years if it happens at all.
Penalties for Lane Splitting in Illinois
Illinois has some of the harsher punishments for lane splitting. It can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, more than just a traffic infraction. This could mean up to a year in jail, two years probation, and a fine of up to $2,500.
That’s not all. Since lane splitting is illegal, any accidents resulting from you doing it will likely be considered your fault. Not only does this mean you would be liable for damages, but if the accident results in bodily harm, you could be charged with a Class 3 felony. This usually results in a jail sentence.
Arguments For and Against Lane Splitting in Pennsylvania
Supported by the American Motorcyclist Association, many riders in Illinois argue that lane splitting is both safe and a great way to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
They point to California’s legalization of lane splitting after a UC Berkeley study found that the practice was safe at speeds under 50 mph.
However, there are many people, including government officials, who oppose lane splitting and claim it increases danger on the roadways.
They cite the Illinois Department of Transportation’s crash report that shows over 2,000 motorcyclists injured from accidents in 2019 and 119 killed and assert that legalizing lane splitting would only make these numbers worse.
Regardless of your opinion on lane splitting legalization, it’s important to understand your local laws and the penalties you could face for breaking them.
It doesn’t seem like lane splitting will be legal in Illinois anytime soon, so it’s best to avoid the practice to stay safe and avoid fines and liability in the case of an accident.