Attorney Jason Waechter: Lane-splitting Requires Renewed Focus on Safety

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The AMA recently published a position statement on lane-splitting for motorcycles. Attorney Jason Waechter believes if lane-splitting is going to work on our roads, motor-vehicle drivers need to be hyper-vigilant about watching for motorcycles.

Attorney Jason A. Waechter, The Motorcycle Lawyer- Owner & Senior Litigator of The Law Offices of Jason Waechter

Given that most drivers who collide with motorcycles claim they never saw the biker, I wonder if lane-splitting puts bikers at higher risk for not being seen.

In the January 2014 edition of their magazine, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) published a position statement endorsing lane-splitting for motorcycles, provided it is done in a safe and responsible manner. The AMA's position statement can be read in full on their website.

Most bikers will know what lane-splitting means, but other motorists may not be familiar with the term. Lane-splitting, sometimes called “white-lining”, refers to the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes of traffic. The legal status of lane-splitting varies state-by-state, but regardless of the law most drivers have probably seen a motorcycle moving through heavy traffic by driving between lanes and other vehicles. In some states, like California, lane-splitting is allowed, and the California Highway Patrol provides information about it on their website.

The AMA cites safety as the main reason for their endorsement: “Perhaps one of the most dangerous situations for any on-highway motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions pose an increased risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard. Even minor contact under such conditions can be disastrous for motorcyclists.”

There isn’t a lot of solid data to show if lane-splitting improves safety for motorcyclists. The AMA refers to the Hurt Report (1981), that concluded that lane-splitting could slightly reduce vehicle-motorcycle crashes, but it’s difficult to say if a 30-year-old study can provide data that is relevant on today’s roadways.

Jason Waechter, The Motorcycle Lawyer, questions the safety of lane-splitting with car and truck drivers seemingly more and more distracted behind the wheel. “Distracted driving is already a real problem,” says Waechter. “My concern is that if motorcyclists start lane-splitting, especially in slow traffic, drivers who are texting or fiddling with their phones may think they’ve got room to make a move because they can see the cars moving around them, but they might not think to look for a motorcycle moving much faster between the lanes. Given that most drivers who collide with motorcycles claim they never saw the biker, I wonder if lane-splitting doesn’t put bikers at higher risk for not being seen.”

The AMA very specifically connects their endorsement to rider responsibility, and while Waechter agrees, he goes a step further. “Bikers have a responsibility to ride safely and be smart, always,” he says. “But I think there is an even greater responsibility for drivers to watch for motorcyclists. Especially if lane-splitting is going to work on the roads, drivers need to be hyper-vigilant about doing proper shoulder and mirror checks and signaling their intentions, especially in heavy traffic when a motorcyclist may be lane-splitting to try to stay out of harm’s way.”

Ultimately, Waechter believes that more research on lane-splitting and safety is needed before the practice should be introduced widely on US roads.


Jason Waechter has spent two decades cementing his reputation for results. Jason's four lawyer law firm can assist in any personal injury case but over the years he has specialized his practice to motorcycle accidents. Jason has won millions for auto accident victims and contributed significantly to safety education and accident prevention. He has entrenched himself as one of the nation's premier lawyers, recently being named to the Michigan Super Lawyers and Michigan's Best Lawyers & Law Firms.

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