Is Lane Splitting Legal in Missouri?

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Lane splitting is a common motorcyclist practice. While it’s not currently outlawed in our state, pending legislation could change that. Regardless of its legal status, however, lane splitting in Missouri is dangerous, and a rider can be penalized for it.

Lane splitting may also negatively impact a motorcyclist’s personal injury claim in the event he or she gets into an accident. If you get hurt while riding a motorcycle, you have the right to seek the compensation you need to get your life back to normal. The dedicated and compassionate Kansas City, MO, motorcycle accident attorneys of Aramjoo Law Firm are ready to serve you.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of traffic. Other terms for lane splitting are white lining (because the motorcyclist drives on the white lines that are painted between the lanes) and riding the zipper. Nearly two-thirds of motorcyclists say that they use lane splitting to avoid congested traffic, which means it is a fairly common practice.

Lane splitting should not be confused with lane filtering. Lane filtering happens when a motorcycle rider drives between stopped or slower-moving traffic, for instance, at stoplights. The rider maneuvers to the front of the traffic line, so he or she can go first when the light turns green.

The Legal Status of Lane Splitting in Missouri

There is currently no Missouri state law that makes it illegal to lane split. But this may change in the near future. A proposed Missouri lane splitting law, House Bill 1046, was introduced in February 2023. The legislation makes a distinction between lane filtering (which would be allowed) and lane splitting (which would be illegal) by more clearly defining the two:

  • Lane filtering: When a motorcyclist is “between rows of stopped or slow-moving vehicles that are traveling in the same direction as the motorcycle on divided or undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
  • Lane splitting: When a motorcyclist is “between rows of fast-moving vehicles that are traveling in the same direction as the motorcycle on divided or undivided streets, roads, or highways.”

The legislation is intended to provide better guidance as to how lane filtering may be safely done while also clearly stating that “nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing lane splitting.” As of May 2023, no significant action has been taken on the proposed law, but it remains pending.

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

Lane splitting is quite dangerous and is not recommended by a number of motorcycle safety experts. These are a few potential dangers:

Increased risk of an accident

Some advocates believe that lane splitting reduces the risk of rear-end accidents by, for instance, allowing a motorcyclist to avoid being caught between two vehicles. Whether this is true or not, lane splitting still increases the chances of being hit by automobiles as they change lanes. Motorcycles are difficult to see, and other motorists usually don’t expect them to be riding the white lines.

Speed differential

Motorcyclists who drive on the white lines at approximately the same speed as other motorists may not have an increased risk of a serious accident. But once they begin exceeding other drivers by as little as 10 miles per hour, speed becomes a significant factor. Lacking the steel frame of an automobile, it simply doesn’t take much speed to seriously injure or kill a motorcyclist.

Road rage

Many automobile drivers are already prejudiced against motorcyclists. They view motorcycle riders as reckless and inconsiderate of others’ safety. With heavy traffic and long work hours, it may take very little to send a driver into a fit of road rage. Lane splitting may give them an excuse to do so.

Can a Rider Be Penalized for Lane Splitting in Missouri?

Even though lane splitting is currently allowed in Missouri, a motorcyclist can still receive a traffic ticket if he or she drives recklessly. For instance, lane splitting while speeding, which is fairly common, could earn a rider a ticket. The state’s careless and imprudent driving statute is sufficiently broad enough to encompass the risk that a motorcyclist poses to him- or herself and others.

In addition, all drivers are supposed to stay in a single lane unless passing another vehicle. The white line is not a lane. When motorcycle riders are passing, they are required to drive as nearly as practicable within a single lane. Also, they can only pass another vehicle when they can do so safely. In other words, even in the absence of an explicit Missouri lane splitting law, the practice arguably violates existing statutes.

How Lane Splitting May Affect a Motorcyclist’s Accident Claim

Since lane splitting is still legal in Missouri, an injured motorcyclist can file a personal injury claim if he or she gets hurt due to another party’s irresponsible behavior. However, the well-known dangers of lane splitting will be taken into account by the at-fault driver’s attorney and insurance company. That’s because of a legal doctrine known as comparative fault.

Personal injury cases are based on the idea of negligence. A victim asserts that the defendant was negligent by acting or failing to act in a way that was unsafe under the circumstances. But negligence isn’t always black and white, and sometimes the victim him- or herself may engage in such conduct. A jury may determine that a lane-splitting motorcyclist was, for instance, 40% at fault for the accident. This would effectively reduce the victim’s damages by 40%. Note that even if the victim was 99% at fault for the accident, a jury may still award damages for the 1% of fault borne by the defendant.

If You’ve Been in a Motorcycle Accident in Missouri, Get Experienced Legal Counsel

It is still legal to split lanes in Missouri. But we advise against this practice, given the possibility that doing so could substantially reduce a victim’s legal damages in an accident lawsuit.

We work hard to defend the rights of all our accident clients by seeking the most compensation available and refuting attempts to shift blame from the at-fault party to the victim. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Kansas City, MO, explore your legal options with Aramjoo Law Firm. Contact us today at 816-326-2968 or online to schedule your case evaluation.

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