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. A surprisingly low number of states allow for lane splitting.
So, Is It Legal in Michigan?
No, lane splitting is not legal in Michigan. You can be stopped and penalized for the practice.
Here the law has one of the most specific bans on lane splitting in the country. In the Michigan Vehicle Code Section 257.660, article 5 states:
A person operating a motorcycle, moped, low-speed vehicle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or electric skateboard shall not pass between lines of traffic, but may pass on the left of traffic moving in his or her direction in the case of a 2-way street or on the left or right of traffic in the case of a 1-way street, in an unoccupied lane.Source
That’s pretty cut and dry. Lane splitting in Michigan is 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.
Even though lane splitting is so expressly prohibited in Michigan, lane sharing is legal as long as no more than two motorcycles share the lane. This is specified in article 3 of the same law mentioned above:
A person riding an electric personal assistive mobility device, motorcycle, electric skateboard, or moped upon a roadway shall not ride more than 2 abreast except on a path or part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive use of those vehicles.
Future of Lane Splitting in Michigan
Known for automobile manufacturing, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of traffic in Michigan. Many motorcyclists advocate for the legalization of lane splitting to help relieve some of this traffic. They’ve started petitions to get the Michigan government to change the law.
However, it doesn’t seem like these petitions have gained much traction. As of yet, there’s no sign that the Michigan legislature is in the process of legalizing lane splitting or filtering.
Penalties for Lane Splitting in Michigan
Despite the specificity of Michigan’s law against lane splitting, there’s no specific penalty. Rather, law enforcement officials can cite you for a general traffic violation or reckless driving. This could carry a large fine.
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 or Against Lane Splitting in Michigan
Supported by the American Motorcyclist Association, many riders in Michigan argue that lane splitting is 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 point to Michigan motorcycle crash statistics that show accidents have increased in the past few years, with over 3,000 in 2021. There were also over 160 fatalities that same year. They argue that legalizing lane splitting would increase these numbers.
Lane splitting is a controversial issue in Michigan. It’s expressly illegal, but many motorcyclists insist that legalizing it would increase safety and decrease traffic congestion.
For now, make sure you obey the law to avoid legal fines and penalties, but if you would like to get involved in the conversation, find some local motorcycle organizations to participate in or contact your local lawmakers.