Is Lane Splitting Legal in Washington?

Motorcyclists in the state of Washington may wonder about their right to lane-split, or ride on the line between two lanes of traffic rather than within a single lane. While states such as California have recently legalized lane-splitting, this practice remains illegal in Washington. If you get into a motorcycle accident in Vancouver involving lane-splitting, contact the attorneys at NW Injury Law Center for a legal consultation.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle on the line between two lanes of same-direction traffic. It is illegal in most states, although California and some others have lifted their laws against lane splitting. While the two are sometimes used interchangeably, lane splitting is not technically the same thing as lane filtering. Lane filtering refers to moving between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic, such as traffic stopped at a red light, while lane-splitting occurs in regular-moving traffic.

What Are the Potential Pros and Cons of Lane Splitting?

Many motorcyclists argue the benefits of lane-splitting, which may include saving time by avoiding stopped traffic. This not only benefits the motorcyclist but also other drivers by allowing motorcyclists to exit sooner and decreasing traffic congestion. Another argument for lane-splitting is enhanced motorcyclist safety. A motorcyclist can stop next to a vehicle rather than directly behind it to avoid rear-end collisions, which could be deadly if the motorcyclist gets crushed between two cars.

Arguments against lane-splitting tend to focus on the potential for an increased risk of traffic accidents. Those who are against it point out that motor vehicle drivers may not notice a motorcyclist who is riding between lanes; the motorcyclist may be in the driver’s blind spot or the driver may not be used to checking for vehicles in the space between two lanes. This could lead to merge, lane-change and sideswipe motorcycle accidents.

Lane Splitting Is Not Legal in Washington

No matter where a motorcyclist stands on the lane-splitting debate, he or she legally cannot engage in this practice in the state of Washington. According to the Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.61.608, no person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or adjacent lines or rows of vehicles. This law also states that motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane and may not overtake and pass other vehicles in the same lane.

A motorist may only leave a single lane after first ascertaining that such movement can be made safely, such as when switching lanes or passing another vehicle if circumstances allow. When switching lanes, it is against the law in Washington for a motorcyclist to hover or remain on the dotted line between two lanes of same-direction traffic. The consequences of lane splitting in Washington can include a monetary penalty.

Who Is Responsible for a Motorcycle Accident Involving Lane Splitting in Washington?

Since lane-splitting is specifically prohibited under Washington law, a motorcyclist who was engaging in this illegal practice at the time of an automobile accident may be found at fault for the crash. Proof of this violated law may be enough to establish the motorcyclist’s liability, or financial responsibility, for the collision and subsequent injuries and property damage. This means the motorcyclist’s automotive insurance policy would pay.

However, these accidents can be complicated. For example, an injured motorcyclist may not have had any choice but to travel on the line between two lanes of traffic in dangerous circumstances, such as to avoid a driver merging on top of the motorcyclist. If you get involved in an accident involving lane-splitting in Washington, contact NW Injury Law Center for legal assistance. We will help you protect your rights as an injured accident victim.

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