Riding a motorcycle often means that you can fit into spaces where a standard-sized car simply will not go. When you look at lanes of stopped traffic, you may feel that you can easily slip between them to reach your destination, cutting down on the time that you have to spend waiting–which might seem particularly important if you find yourself waiting in the heat of a muggy Louisiana summer. But can you legally lane split in Louisiana?
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is the act of driving between two lanes of traffic. A motorcycle can often easily slip between two lanes, especially during times when traffic is stopped or moving extremely slowly. Often, a motorcycle can get ahead of traffic or avoid long wait times by splitting lanes, especially which can make the action extremely tempting.
Lane splitting is dangerous for a number of reasons.
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Is Lane Splitting Legal in Louisiana?
No. Lane splitting is illegal in Louisiana. While several states are considering lane splitting legislation that will allow motorcycles to move between two lanes of traffic under certain circumstances, only California has, thus far, legalized lane splitting.
Lane splitting is also illegal for larger passenger vehicles. While most drivers of passenger vehicles will not attempt to fit between two lanes of traffic, since they can clearly see that they do not fit in that area, they may try to use a motorcycle rider’s lane to get around a slow-moving vehicle, forcing the motorcycle to the far side of the lane as the rider tries to avoid a collision. Lane splitting can substantially increase the risk of an accident, especially since it leaves the motorcycle rider with little room to maneuver safely. If a car tries to split lanes or use a motorcycle’s space, the driver may face significant consequences, especially if that action causes an accident.
Motorcycles Are Considerably Smaller than Passenger Vehicles
Motorcycle riders already struggle to ensure that the drivers of passenger vehicles see them as they ride down the road. While that smaller size can offer an advantage, since it makes motorcycles more maneuverable and makes it easier for them to slip into spaces where passenger vehicles might not fit, it can also pose a substantial disadvantage, since the average driver of a passenger vehicle might look for the visual pattern of a larger vehicle, rather than checking specifically for a motorcycle.
Lane Splitting Puts a Motorcycle in a Space Where Drivers do Not Expect Them
Passenger vehicle drivers often do not expect a motorcycle to lane split, even in tight traffic. Drivers may sit patiently in traffic, waiting for the jam to clear so that they can move forward. When traffic starts moving forward again, the average driver will not check around him before putting the car in motion, but will typically just start driving again.
Motorcycle riders engaged in lane splitting have entered an area where drivers do not typically expect to find another vehicle. Those drivers may not, therefore, check for the presence of a motorcycle before they start driving again, which can significantly raise the risk of an accident.
Lane Splitting Puts Riders in a Very Tight Space
The act of lane splitting causes motorcycle riders to put themselves in a very tight space, especially in heavy traffic. Larger vehicles, including big trucks–which automatically have less visibility into what happens down their sides than the average passenger vehicle–may take up more of the available space in those lanes. Sometimes, motorcycles may have a hard time getting all the way through traffic, especially if the vehicles on either side have drifted close to the centerline.
Unfortunately, in some cases, motorcycles may have to move into that space before they realize the danger, which can make it much more difficult for them to maneuver out again without causing an accident. In some cases, lane splitting could actually increase traffic snarls for both the motorcycle rider and other drivers around him.
Motorcycle Riders Have Little Protection from the Vehicles Around Them
The average motorcycle provides no protection in an accident. In fact, motorcycles often become a further source of damage as riders end up with their bikes on top of them during a collision. Because they offer so little protection, motorcycle riders may find themselves seriously injured by side mirrors, bumpers, and protruding objects on cars around them as they attempt to split lanes.
Even a minor collision can lead to serious injuries, from heavy bruising to broken bones, if a motorcycle rider misjudges his available space or a passenger vehicle driver fails to note the presence of a motorcycle near him.
Can Two Motorcycles Ride Side By Side in Louisiana?
While lane splitting is illegal, the drivers of motorcycles can choose to share a lane. In Louisiana, two motorcycles can ride side by side in the same lane. More than two motorcycles occupying the same lane side by side, however, is illegal, as it can increase the danger of a collision and leave both riders without adequate room to maneuver.
In cases when multiple riders would like to ride together, other riders should follow behind the two riding side by side.
Following the Motorcycle Rules of the Road in Louisiana
If you drive a motorcycle in Louisiana, you can expect to be held to the same rules of the road as the average driver of a passenger vehicle. In addition to following traffic signals, that means you must adhere to speed limits, despite the fact that your motorcycle may get up to speed faster and that you may be more maneuverable than a passenger vehicle. Furthermore, you must drive in a single lane of traffic, rather than splitting between two lanes.
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Do You Need a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
If you suffer injuries in any type of motorcycle accident, including a lane-splitting incident, you may need an attorney to help you go over your right to compensation. Contact Morris Bart to learn more about your rights, including when to file a claim and how to handle interactions with the insurance company after the accident.
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