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 Texas?
Short answer, no. Lane splitting is considered illegal in the Lonestar state.
In the few states where lane splitting is legal, laws have been passed to explicitly ensure its legality. These states include California, Utah, and Montana.
In several other states, bills have been proposed to legalize the riding practice; however, they have not yet been passed into law.
In Texas, there is no law specific to lane splitting. However, the Texas transportation code does outline rules for all motorists.
According to Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.060,
“(a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic: (1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane.”
This means that any type of lane splitting is prohibited on Texas roadways.
Future of Lane Splitting in Texas
While it’s difficult to determine if it will ever become law, many senators in the state of Texas, both Democrat and Republican, have proposed bills to allow for lane splitting by motorcyclists.
Several bills have been submitted to legislative sessions, including attempts in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
Those bills, however, never made it beyond the Texas Senate Transportation Committee. There were no bills proposed for the 2021 Texas legislative session, meaning those hoping for lane splitting to be legalized in the state will have to wait until the next legislative session in 2023.
Penalties for Lane Splitting in Texas
Under Texas law, motorcyclists fall under the same safety codes as other motorists and abide by the same laws.
That said, the most common penalty for lane splitting would likely be a ticket and fine upwards of $175.
If a motorcyclist was lane splitting and became involved in an accident, they could be deemed at fault for the accident, considered a negligent and reckless driver, and could face reduced compensation due to the accident.
Argument for Lane Splitting to Be Legalized
While it’s often believed that riders only lane split to move through traffic more fluidly, it has been connected to motorcycle safety practices.
This study has shown that motorcyclists are more likely to be hit from behind by another vehicle than if they were to maneuver between two vehicles. In addition, the risk for serious injury is significantly reduced due to the generally low speeds at which most lane splitting occurs.
Stop-and-go, heavy traffic is considered to be a pretty dangerous scenario for motorcyclists. With distracted drivers, motorcyclists are often sitting ducks for accidents and injuries.
Lane splitting could significantly reduce their risk of being hit by another vehicle and of severe head and torso injuries.
Whether you’re a proponent for lane splitting or not, there are sound arguments on both sides of the aisle. While it can be considered a matter of safety, especially in heavy traffic, motorcyclists in Texas will have to wait until 2023 to see if a bill is proposed to make it legal.