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 Georgia?
No, lane splitting is not legal in Georgia. 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.
Georgia, however, specifically addresses lane splitting in its legal code. Subsections (b) and (c) of Section 40-6-312 state:
(b) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
In other words, lane splitting and lane filtering are illegal.
What About Lane Sharing?
Lane sharing is different from lane splitting or lane filtering. While lane splitting involves passing cars or trucks in the same lane they occupy or between two lanes of other vehicles, lane sharing involves two or more motorcycles sharing the same lane side by side.
Interestingly, though Georgia prohibits lane splitting, it allows lane sharing. In fact, subsection (d) of the above-mentioned section of the legal code states:
(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
As you can see, two motorcycles may share a lane on a Georgia roadway. However, more than two are prohibited.
Future of Lane Splitting in Georgia
Georgia is a heavily populated state, and many residents, especially those around Atlanta, can tell you that traffic can become terribly congested. As a result, many motorcyclists have begun calling for a change to Georgia law as a means to alleviate congestion and increase rider safety in heavy traffic.
In fact, a 2016 petition received a whopping 1,400 signatures. It requested the government legalize lane splitting with a maximum speed of 45 mph and no more than 15 mph greater than the surrounding traffic.
Nevertheless, the years since the petition hasn’t seen any bills make much progress in the Georgia legislature. If lane splitting is to be legalized in Georgia, it’s still a long way off.
Penalties for Lane Splitting in Georgia
Georgia law does not specify a penalty for lane splitting. However, police officers may stop and cite you for the practice, which may carry a fine of up to $400. You may also receive points against your license.
Additionally, since lane splitting constitutes an illegal traffic maneuver, you will likely be at fault and, therefore, liable if it results in an accident.
Best case, this will drive up your insurance premiums after the insurance company must cover your liability for the accident. Worst case, your insurance policy won’t cover the extent of the damages, and you will have to pay out of your own pocket.
Arguments For and Against Lane Splitting in Georgia
Supported by the American Motorcyclist Association, many riders in Georgia 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 Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s Georgia motorcycle traffic safety fact sheet, which shows that motorcycles are already involved in a disproportionate number of accidents, representing 11 percent of traffic fatalities but just two percent of registered vehicles.
Furthermore, they cite the fact that motorcycle crashes increased 22 percent from 2017 to 2019 with nearly 4,000 motorcycle accidents resulting in 170 deaths. Forty-two percent of these accidents occurred in the densely populated Atlanta region.
Despite the wishes of many organizations and individual riders, lane splitting is illegal in Georgia and will likely be so for a while.
For this reason, you should be aware of the legal penalties you may face if you do it.
Meanwhile, if you would like to change the law, get involved with one of the groups petitioning the government and take part in your local civil discussion.