In the world of motorcycle safety, lane splitting is a controversial subject. It’s a common action, despite the fact that many riders know it’s potentially dangerous and even illegal in most states, which often leads to an important question: is lane splitting legal in Texas?
The legality issue only compounds the problem. It presents the possibility of prosecution for this driving tactic, which adds another level of risk to a behavior that’s already risky to begin with.
It sounds confusing, so let’s sort it all out. This blog will provide a breakdown of what lane splitting is, how it typically works, and why it’s dangerous. We’ll also determine whether lane splitting is legal in Texas for Harley Davidson riders who need to know the law.
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting, also known as lane filtering, occurs when a motorcycle rides over dashed lines on a multi-lane road to pass between other slow-moving vehicles. It typically occurs in traffic jams, and it helps riders who are in a hurry save time by making their way ahead of traffic lines.
Traditionally, this tactic has been considered a dangerous behavior, and it was almost universally banned for many years. However, some states have legalized lane filtering, which in turn increases riders’ temptation to try and get away with it in states where it’s against the law.
That temptation is increased by the fact that lane filtering laws are rarely enforced, to the point where a rider would have to be egregiously speeding or lane splitting simultaneously in a large group of riders to earn a citation.
Is Lane Splitting Safe or Dangerous?
As you might expect given the legal inconsistencies, there are two distinct camps when it comes to lane splitting.
Experienced riders who do it all the time, regardless of their state’s laws, will tell you it’s no big deal. They’ll tell you it can be a safety tactic in some high-traffic situations, and they’ll be quick to add that it’s a harmless maneuver provided that proper safety precautions are taken, meaning if they have the ability to see and anticipate the actions of all the other drivers around them.
The outlook of some of those riders is rooted, to at least some extent, in the so-called “outlaw” culture of motorcycle riding. They typically refer to cars as “cages,” and they see safety experts as people who just don’t get it when it comes to expert riders who know how to use lane filtering effectively.
While all of that may be true to some extent, safety experts and proponents will tell you just as quickly that all of that is pure bunk. They’ll respond by saying that moving traffic is moving traffic, especially in traffic jams, and there’s no way to anticipate the movement of dozens of vehicles in a traffic jam, especially when nearly everyone is getting impatient and becoming prone to impulsive reactions.
For better or worse, the potential for road rage is another element that safety experts cite as a reason why lane filtering is dangerous. Many car drivers don’t like it when motorcyclists “jump to the head of the line,” which increases the possibility of dangerous retaliation and subsequent accidents.
The Law in Texas and Beyond
Now let’s talk about Texas. Texas is one of ten states to formally recognize lane splitting, which basically means that several bills have been introduced in the state legislature to potentially make it legal. Those bills were introduced in 2015, 2017, and 2019, but none were passed, so lane filtering remains illegal, and riders who are caught will get a ticket for illegal passing.
The pandemic stopped the frequent bill introductions, but now that most COVID restrictions have been lifted, lane splitting’s legality will doubtless be considered again. It’s useful to look at how other states have handled lane filtering, especially the ones that have legalized it, so let’s take a closer look at the geography there.
Montana allows it, with the stipulation that motorcyclists can’t go over 20 mph in stopped traffic.
Hawaii allows lane splitting, too—locals referring to it as “lane surfing”—with the restriction that motorcyclists can’t go over 10 mph, and they’re allowed to split lanes on the white line or on road shoulders.
Utah also allows it, but in a fairly unique way. Riders there can go to the head of the line during intersection stops, but the speed limit in most situations is 15 mph, and lane filtering is illegal on freeways.
Harley Davidson and Motorcycle Safety
When it comes to promoting motorcycle safety, Harley Davidson has been one of the most proactive manufacturers around.
If you’re interested in a Harley and have questions about lane filtering or any other motorcycle safety issue in Texas, stop by the Kingwood dealership or contact us on our website to get all your questions answered and safety needs met.
Harley Davidson of Kingwood
Harley-Davidson of Kingwood is your #1 Texas Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealer. Our full-service facility offers new and pre-owned motorcycles, parts, maintenance, riding apparel, and everything else you need to get your Hog on the road. As a winner of the Harley-Davidson Gold Bar & Shield Circle of Excellence, we’re committed to providing top-notch customer service every day of the week. Stop by and visit the Harley-Davidson of Kingwood Showroom on Northpines Drive in Kingwood, TX!