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IS LANE SPLITTING LEGAL IN DALLAS TEXAS?

January 01, 2019

lane splitting dallas tx


LANE SPLITTING IN DALLAS TEXAS TRAFFIC

Is lane splitting legal in Dallas? Lately there's been a lot of discussion about lane splitting and lane filtering, both options that allow motorcycles to venture outside the regular traffic flow. California made lane splitting legal in 2017 and Utah said filtering was okay.

If you live in Dallas, you know the headache (we'll use that term in place of the swear words that more appropriately describe the soul sucking mess we have to deal with) it presents for your daily commute. When traffic slows or comes to a complete stop, sometimes you can see a clear path through between the cars. 

Will you get a ticket if you ride through and a cop sees you? If something happens and you're in an accident while lane splitting, will you be at fault? Our article is going to cover what is lane splitting, what is lane filtering, possible penalties for lane splitting and lane splitting laws specific to Texas.

IS MOTORCYCLE LANE SPLITTING LEGAL IN TEXAS?

No. Motorcycle lane splitting involves driving between two lanes with cars in each. It's not legal because a motorcycle is considered a vehicle just like cars, trucks, SUVs and 18-wheelers. Texas traffic laws say all vehicles should stay in their lane while traveling. The only time it's okay to move from your lane is when you're traveling from one to another when it's safe to do so.

However...

Lane splitting also isn't actually prohibited by law. That means there's no law specifically prohibiting it, so it's sort of a grey area. Basically, if you get pulled over it's up to the police officer whether or not you get a ticket. Sometimes the officer makes a call based on how you were riding at the time. Other times he or she might just be having a bad day and be on the lookout for someone to bust.

Proposed Changes to Texas Lane Splitting Laws

Senate Bill Number 288 has been under consideration since 2015, and it's up for review again this year. If it passes, it says in some situations riders "may operate the motorcycle for a safe distance between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during periods of traffic congestion if the operator operates the motorcycle:

  • at a speed of not more than five miles per hour greater than the speed of the other traffic and
  • in traffic that is moving at a speed of 20 miles per hour or less.

LANE SPLITTING IN OTHER STATES

California is the only state where riding between two lanes of traffic on a motorcycle is specifically legal. So when you ride to the Golden State, feel free to do it whenever it's safe. Lane splitting advocates in California argued it encourages a sensible flow of traffic, relieves congestion and might even encourage more people to take their bike to work. It also could make riding safer, since a significant number of traffic accidents happen when motorcycles get rear-ended as traffic starts and stops.

Utah legalized lane filtering. That allows riders to move between extremely slow moving or stopped vehicles. It's a little more restrictive than lane splitting, with the difference being the speed other vehicles are moving.

Hawaii allows shoulder surfing but not lane splitting. Roads are narrow and winding, so lane splitting is too dangerous, but riders are allowed to move to the shoulder to skirt stopped or slow moving traffic.

LANE SPLITTING PENALTIES IN TEXAS

So what if you do ride between lines of cars, you get pulled over and the police officer decides to ticket you? If lane splitting isn't specifically prohibited, what will you get ticketed for? There are a number of violations officers can choose from. You might get a ticket for one of the following:

  • Reckless driving
  • Illegal passing
  • Following too closely
  • Unsafe lane changes


The bigger problem occurs if you're in an accident. There's such a huge debate about lane splitting because of rider safety issues. Experienced riders say lane splitting actually allows them more control over where they are in regard to other drivers and can be done safely when you know what you're doing. Critics say motorists don't anticipate motorcyclists between lanes, so their presence always makes an accident more likely. If you get in a wreck while lane splitting, there's a much greater chance you'll be held liable. 

We're not lawyers, and every case is different. Don't take this post as legal advice, we're your local Harley® dealer, not your legal advisor. If you're in that situation, talk to an attorney.

TIPS IF YOU DO LANE SPLIT

Dallas traffic changes constantly, so whether or not it's safe to lane split at all depends on your situation. If you do, here are a few tips.

  • Split between lanes 1 and 2 when traffic exits to right. There's less movement between vehicles and entering and exiting vehicles are toward the outside.
  • Keep your fingers over the front brake in case you need to slow or stop suddenly. If traffic is especially heavy, stick close to your rear brake also.
  • Lane split when vehicles are slightly staggered. If you do so when they're side by side, both have mirrors sticking out. 
  • Keep a straight line. Don't weave or you might startle drivers when you pop up in their rearview.
  • Stay off the paint. Dashed lines provide less traction than asphalt. If you need to brake suddenly, you want all the friction you can get. Also, raised pavement markers or road reflectors come between your bike tires and the road.
  • Stay away from vehicles towing anything. They're longer and their trailor or other towed item is more likely to drift.
  • Don't try lane splitting on wet Dallas roads.
  • Don't assume. People will change lanes without using a blinker and when they're not in a legal passing area.

We want to know your opinion! What are safe lane splitting tips you've learned? Do you think Texas should specify lane splitting rules? What should riders watch out for if they're lane splitting in Dallas Texas? Join our Facebook group to tell us what you think.