Is Lane Splitting Legal in North Carolina?

traffic in north carolina

Many motorcyclists argue that driving in between lanes during stopped traffic, a practice known as “lane splitting,” can save time for them and others on the road by reducing congestion. But is lane splitting legal in North Carolina? Read on to learn more. If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to Kreger Brodish, LLP, to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Again, lane splitting refers to the practice of driving a motorcycle between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic, typically on a multi-lane road or highway during a traffic jam. The only U.S. state that expressly allows lane splitting in its laws is California.

Though North Carolina law does not specifically prohibit lane splitting, the Motorcyclist Handbook prepared by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) states that motorcyclists should operate their vehicles within their own lane of traffic. The Handbook explains that riding between designated traffic lanes leaves motorcycle riders “vulnerable to the unexpected.”

Ultimately, though lane splitting is not expressly outlawed in North Carolina, all road users have a legal duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing accidents. Each accident is unique, and what constitutes “reasonable care” will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In any case, to avoid negatively impacting your right to compensation in the event of an accident, it is best to operate your motorcycle within your own lane.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), motorcycles make up just a small fraction of the vehicles on U.S. roadways — approximately 3.5 percent of the almost 28.4 million motor vehicles registered nationwide. Notwithstanding, motorcyclists account for a staggering 14 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,932 motorcyclists lost their lives in traffic accidents in one recent year alone. That same year, 202 motorcyclists were killed in traffic collisions right here in North Carolina. One source found that nearly one in five motorcycle accidents involve lane splitting.

How Is Lane Splitting Different from Lane Filtering?

Though related, there are certain differences between “lane splitting” and another practice commonly known as “lane filtering.” Lane filtering occurs when motorcyclists maneuver toward the front of stopped or slowed traffic. In other words, they “filter” toward the front of the line.

Motorcyclists often filter by moving between lanes (like lane splitting), but generally only when traffic is stopped at an intersection. Filtering helps motorcyclists get a head start at green lights and, more importantly, reduces their risk of being rear-ended.

Contact a Skilled North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Were you injured in a motorcycle accident caused by a careless motorist? Fortunately, you do not need to handle the aftermath on your own. The experienced Durham motorcycle accident lawyers at Kreger Brodish, LLP, can help. We are here to protect your rights and pursue the full and fair compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.