Jill Kolodner | March 21, 2022 | Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycles can often move through traffic easier than passenger vehicles. Three of these maneuvers are often referred to as lane splitting, even though they constitute different maneuvers.
But just because motorcycles can move through traffic differently does not mean that they should. These maneuvers represent significant safety tradeoffs for riders and could pose a danger to riders and drivers.
Here is an overview of lane splitting and some related maneuvers that motorcyclists can use to move through traffic.
Lane Splitting, Filtering, and Sharing
As motorcycles move through traffic, they face significant hazards. Because of their size, drivers often fail to spot motorcycles on the road.
This lack of awareness leads to some of the most common motorcycle accidents, including:
- Rear-end collisions
- Left-turn collisions
- Lane change collisions
In each of these situations, drivers may fail to spot the motorcycle in their way and collide with it.
Lane splitting, filtering, and sharing are intended to help motorcyclists avoid some of the most dangerous situations on the road. But while these maneuvers reduce some risks, they increase others.
The maneuvers also have varying degrees of legality. Lane sharing is legal in Maryland, while lane splitting and lane filtering are currently illegal. The Maryland legislature has considered making lane splitting or filtering legal, but it has not yet approved the practice.
Lane splitting happens when a motorcycle rides between lanes along the lane line. In the purest form of lane splitting, motorcycles can split lanes in both moving and stopped traffic.
But most states that have approved lane-splitting recognize the danger of allowing motorcycles to ride between moving traffic lanes. Passing vehicles by riding between lanes exposes both motorcyclists and vehicle drivers to the risk of a collision.
When traffic has stopped, however, motorcyclists face a much lower risk. Thus, many of the states that allow lane splitting limit the practice to stopped or slow-moving traffic.
When employed in this way, lane splitting improves motorcyclist safety. Motorcycle rear-end collisions pose a grave threat to motorcyclists. By allowing motorcyclists to move through stop-and-go traffic along the lane lines, motorcyclists reduce the risk of a rear-end collision.
On the other hand, moving along lane lines increases the risk of lane change collisions. Drivers do not expect motorcycles to pass them along the lane lines. A driver could try to change lanes in slow traffic and move directly into the path of a motorcycle splitting the lanes.
Lane filtering is similar to lane splitting. In lane filtering, motorcycles are allowed to pick their way through stopped traffic lanes to reach the front of the lane. This usually involves a combination of lane splitting and weaving in and out of the stopped cars.
Like lane splitting, lane filtering reduces the risk of rear-end collisions. But lane filtering also increases the risk of lane change collisions. Both lane splitting and filtering can also expose the motorcyclist to the risk of hitting the open door of a stopped vehicle.
Lane sharing happens when motorcycles ride side by side or staggered in the same lane. Normally, motorcycles must ride single-file.
Lane sharing increases the visibility of motorcycles. Drivers can more easily spot two motorcyclists than one. This helps drivers and motorcyclists avoid lane change accidents.
But lane sharing requires a high degree of skill. A slight bobble can cause the motorcycles to collide and go down in an active lane of traffic. Riders cannot ride more than two abreast in one lane in Maryland.
Use Lane Splitting and Filtering Safely to Avoid Accidents
Lane splitting and filtering are illegal in Maryland. When you ride in states in which those maneuvers are legal, make sure you only use them in stopped or stop-and-go traffic. This will reduce your risk of a rear-end collision without increasing the risk of a lane change collision.