Is Lane Splitting Legal in New York?



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 New York?

No, lane splitting is not legal in New York. 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.

New York, however, specifically forbids lane splitting. Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1252, subsections b-d 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.
(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.

Lane splitting would clearly break these laws.

What About Lane Sharing?

Unlike many states that ban lane splitting, New York does actually allow lane sharing. This is when two motorcycles ride side by side in a single lane. This is clarified by subsection d of the same law as above:

(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.

As you can see, the maximum number of motorcycles that can share a lane is two.

Future of Lane Splitting in New York

New York is the fourth largest state in the US by population with nearly 20 million inhabitants. Moreover, it includes New York City, the most populous city in the country with one of the largest metro areas in the world, home to over 20 million people on its own. 

As a result, the traffic around New York City and in other large cities in the state like Rochester and Buffalo can be quite congested. Many motorcyclists have proposed lane splitting as a means of alleviating this, and there have actually been petitions organized to encourage the government to legalize it.

Nevertheless, the New York state legislature is not currently considering any bills to legalize lane splitting, and New York law enforcement agencies like the NYPD have been outspoken about their belief that the practice should remain illegal. It doesn’t appear that the laws about lane splitting will change in the near future.  

Penalties for Lane Splitting in New York

If you’re caught lane splitting by law enforcement, the penalties in New York can be rather steep compared to other states. Even upon your first conviction for lane splitting, you can face a fine of $150, a surcharge of $88, two points taken off your license, and 15 days in jail. 

Penalties keep increasing with repeated offenses. A second conviction within 18 months can carry the same surcharge of $88, a two-point reduction and 15 days in jail while the fine goes up to $350. The third conviction within 18 months can result in the same penalties with the fine rising to $450.

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 New York

Proponents for lane splitting in New York cite the severe traffic congestion in the state and claim that the practice could help alleviate it.

Plus, they point to states like California where lane splitting is legal and a UC Berkeley study actually found that the practice to be safe at speeds under 50 mph. 

Opponents of lane splitting in New York, such as the NYPD and AAA, claim that the practice is dangerous and cite studies that show it can lead to road rage. They say it makes other drivers nervous and that even slight movements like adjusting a mirror or opening a door can cause accidents.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your opinion on lane splitting legalization, it’s important to understand your local laws and the consequences you could face for breaking them.

With the adamant resistance of New York law enforcement to lane splitting legalization, it doesn’t seem like it will be legal in the state anytime soon. It’s best to avoid the practice to stay safe and avoid steep penalties and liability in the case of an accident.