is it legal for motorcycles to drive between cars

Ever heard of lane splitting? It's this thing where motorcyclists, also known as white-liners or stripe-riders, weave through slow or stopped traffic. Now, opinions on this move vary – some people think it's a risky and wild move, while others see it as a smart way for bikers to breeze through bumper-to-bumper situations. It's a bit of a hot topic among drivers, to say the least! But is it legal for motorcycles to drive between cars?

The legality of lane splitting largely depends on the jurisdiction, with the laws varying from place to place. This article aims to delve into the legality of motorcycles driving between cars, providing you with comprehensive information to help understand this often-contentious issue.

Understanding the Practice: How Do Motorcycles Drive Between Cars?

You've probably seen it – motorcycles zipping between cars, especially in jam-packed cities. It's a common move for bikers worldwide. It involves riding between lanes of slow or stopped traffic to move ahead faster. It's like a shortcut, especially handy when stuck behind a line of cars going nowhere. In these situations, motorcycles can often move more quickly between cars than cars themselves, as they have a smaller size and better maneuverability.

Lane Splitting, Lane Filtering, Lane Sharing, and Shoulder Riding: What's the Difference?

Before we dive into the legality of motorcycles driving between cars, it is essential to understand the different terms used to describe this practice. When we talk about motorcycles sliding between cars, you might hear terms like lane splitting, lane filtering, lane sharing, and shoulder riding tossed around like confetti. But they're not all the same thing.

Lane Splitting refers to a motorcycle riding between two lanes of traffic at a higher speed, typically in heavy traffic situations.

Lane Filtering involves a motorcycle riding between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic to move to the front of the queue at a red light.

Lane Sharing refers to motorcycles and other vehicles sharing a lane side-by-side. This is legal in some jurisdictions but not others.

Shoulder Riding is another maneuver that is sometimes confused with lane splitting, but it refers to a motorcycle riding on the shoulder of the road, which is illegal in most places.

Now that we have a solid grasp on the different terms used to describe motorcycles driving between cars, let's delve into the crucial question that's likely on every motorcyclist's mind: is it legal?

Legal Perspective: What Do the Laws Say?

The legality of motorcycles driving between cars is a hotly debated topic in the US. As many motorcyclists will attest, this practice is widely accepted and practiced in some states, while it remains illegal in others.

So, what do the laws say?

Unfortunately, there is no simple or straightforward answer to this question. Each state has its own specific laws and regulations regarding motorcycles driving between cars. Some states explicitly allow it, while others have ambiguous laws or no mention of it at all. Additionally, some cities within a state may have their own specific regulations.

Where Is It Legal for Motorcycles to Drive Between Cars?

Over the years, several bills have been introduced in different states to legalize motorcycles driving between cars, but only a few have successfully passed. Let's take a look at the states where lane splitting, lane filtering, lane sharing and shoulder riding are currently legal.


California stands as the sole state where lane splitting is explicitly legal. Experts in this state stipulate guidelines for motorcyclists, recommending them to maintain a speed only ten miles per hour above that of the surrounding traffic. They further caution against lane splitting at speeds exceeding 30 miles per hour.

Additionally, motorcyclists should refrain from lane splitting near freeway exits or ramps for safety reasons. California's laws also state that motorcycle riders must do so safely and within reason.


In the year 2019, Utah joined the ranks as the second state in the good old US of A to give a thumbs-up to lane filtering. But, as always, there are some ground rules for this new law. Motorcyclists can filter through traffic only on roads with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour or less, and that have at least two lanes moving in the same direction. When lane filtering, riders cannot exceed a speed of 15 miles per hour and should only undertake this maneuver around stopped traffic.

Furthermore, it's imperative for motorcyclists to stay in their lanes during this maneuver. Riding on the shoulder or hopping into a bike lane is not permitted under this law. Utah's got this law to strike a balance – keep the traffic flowing smooth, but don't forget about everyone's safety on the road.


In the vast expanse of Montana, something changed on the two-wheeled front in 2021. They decided to throw lane filtering into the mix, but, as you'd expect, there are some rules to follow. Specifically, motorcyclists are allowed to filter between lanes of traffic, but their speed must not exceed 20 miles per hour during this maneuver. Additionally, their speed should be within ten miles per hour of the surrounding vehicles to maintain a safe and uniform flow of traffic.

Also, lanes need to be roomy enough for safe lane splitting – no squeezing through tight spots. Lastly, the law mandates that traffic and road conditions must be safe and conducive for lane filtering. This balance between flexibility for motorcyclists and safety considerations helps manage traffic flow while prioritizing road safety.


Fast forward to 2022, and Arizona's decided to shake things up a bit for the motorcyclists. They legalized the practice of lane filtering under specific conditions. So, in the Grand Canyon State, bikers can roll between lanes, but only when the cars around them are stationary at a red light.

Moreover, this practice is only allowed on roads where the speed limit is below 45 miles per hour. Motorcyclists engaging in lane filtering must not exceed a speed of 15 miles per hour.

Also, according to the law, the road must have a minimum of two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. Motorcyclists can only filter through traffic when they are overtaking a car stopped in the same lane. Lastly, it is crucial to note that filtering should be done in the middle of the lanes. Riding on the median or shoulder is strictly prohibited.


While Hawaii does not technically permit lane splitting or filtering, the state has got a workaround – it's called shoulder riding. This allows motorcyclists to ride on the shoulder of the road to bypass stopped vehicles.

However, it is essential to note that this is only permitted on roads that have at least two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction. This unique approach towards managing motorcycle traffic helps ensure the flow of traffic while placing an emphasis on safety.

States That Do Not Prohibit Riding Between Cars

Several states in the U.S. do not have explicit laws that prohibit or allow motorcyclists to drive between cars. These states include:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey

While these states do not have specific legislation regarding lane splitting or filtering, it is crucial for motorcyclists to exercise caution and follow traffic laws.

In the event of an accident, motorcyclists may still be held liable for reckless or dangerous driving behavior.

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Now, you can avoid these common mistakes with our Crash Course: 9 Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Injury Claim for free!

States Where It Is Not Legal for Motorcycles to Drive Between Cars

In most states across the U.S., including Kansas, it is still illegal to engage in lane splitting. While some of these states are taking into consideration potential legislation to legalize this practice, such bills have yet to be passed. This means that motorcyclists should continue to ride within the confines of the law, which typically involves utilizing only one lane and not filtering between cars.

Ignoring these laws can lead to traffic fines, increased insurance rates, or even criminal charges if an accident occurs.

So, the question is "Who is at fault in such a case?". While the answer could vary from state to state and from accident to accident, you could still get a taste of who is at fault by reading the article Who's At Fault for a Motorcycle Accident in Kansas or Missouri.

Until any formal changes are made to the legislation, it's vital that motorcyclists stay informed about the rules in their state and follow them closely for their safety and the safety of all road users.

While driving between cars may seem like a convenient way to navigate through traffic, it's essential to remember that it comes with risks. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable on the road.

If you're a motorcyclist who has been involved in an accident, especially a severe one, it's crucial that you safeguard your rights and interests. Injury severity can significantly impact the legal proceedings and the potential for compensation.

At Kevin McManus Law, we are committed to protecting the rights of motorcyclists. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and need a personal injury attorney, contact us at 816-203-0143 for a free consultation.

Why Is It Legal for Motorcycles to Drive Between Cars in Some States?

The legalization of lane splitting in some states is primarily due to considerations regarding the safety and efficiency of road use. One of the leading arguments is that lane splitting can help to reduce traffic congestion. Why? Well, motorcycles take up less real estate on the road and can maneuver through stationary or slow-moving traffic. This practice can potentially aid in the overall flow of traffic and decrease commute times.

Another argument made in favor of lane splitting is related to the safety of motorcyclists. In congested traffic where vehicles are at a standstill or moving slowly, motorcyclists are at risk of being rear-ended by distracted or inattentive drivers. Allowing motorcyclists to lane split could potentially reduce this risk, as they can move ahead of such hazards.

However, it's important to note that while these reasons contribute to the legalization of lane splitting in some states, the practice is met with varying degrees of acceptance across the U.S. It remains a controversial topic due to concerns about overall road safety, and motorcyclists are always urged to prioritize safety over convenience.

Safety Concerns: Is It Safe for Motorcycles to Drive Between Cars?

The safety of lane splitting is a topic of heated debate, with studies presenting varied results. According to a study conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety in 2015, lane splitting is relatively safe when performed in traffic moving at 50 mph or less, and if the motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph. However, the safety of this practice decreases significantly in high-speed conditions.

On the other hand, a study from UC Berkeley that analyzed 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions found that motorcyclists who were lane splitting at the time of their accident were significantly less likely to suffer head injury (9% less), torso injury (19% less), or fatal injury (28% less) compared to riders who were not lane splitting.

These findings suggest that while lane-splitting can mitigate some risks for motorcyclists, it can also introduce new hazards, particularly if not performed cautiously and within speed guidelines. Therefore, whether lane splitting is safe or not can depend largely on the circumstances and the rider's skill and judgement.

Impact on Accident Claims: How Does it Affect if Motorcycles Drive Between Cars?

In the event of an accident, the practice of lane splitting can significantly influence the outcome of a claim, depending on the jurisdiction's approach to negligence. Two commonly applied concepts are Comparative Negligence and Contributory Negligence.

Under Comparative Negligence, which is followed in most U.S. states, the fault is distributed amongst all the parties involved in the accident. If a motorcyclist was lane splitting at the time of an accident, they could be assigned a portion of the blame.

However, this would not bar them from recovering damages. The compensation awarded to the motorcyclist would be reduced in proportion to their share of the blame. For example, if a court decides that a motorcyclist is 30% at fault for an accident because they were lane splitting, they would receive 70% of the total damages awarded.

In contrast, the doctrine of Contributory Negligence, followed in a few states, is much stricter. Under this rule, if a motorcyclist is found even slightly at fault - such as by lane splitting - they may be completely barred from recovering any damages. This means that if a motorcyclist is deemed 1% at fault for an accident because they were lane splitting, they would not be able to claim any damages from the other party.

Regardless of the type of negligence rule in effect, it is crucial for motorcyclists to understand that their decision to lane split can have serious consequences in their ability to recover damages in the event of an accident. Therefore, one must always prioritize safety and adhere to local traffic laws when deciding whether to lane split or not.

Note that if you find yourself in a motorcycle accident and need to handle the settlement process, then there are a few mistakes you should try to avoid. So, to stay informed, you can read the article 7 Mistakes to Avoid After a Motorcycle Accident to Receive the Settlement You Deserve.

What to Do if You're Involved in a Lane-Splitting Accident

If you're involved in an accident while lane splitting, it's important to follow these steps:

  1. Ensure Safety: Move to a safe area away from traffic, check for injuries, and seek medical help if needed.
  2. Contact the Police: Report the accident to the police for documentation purposes.
  3. Collect Information: Gather the other party's contact, insurance, and vehicle details. Note the accident specifics and take photos if possible.
  4. Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance provider promptly and cooperate with their investigation.
  5. Consult With a Lawyer: Seek guidance from a lawyer experienced in motorcycle accidents to protect your rights.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a lane-splitting accident and suffered injuries, it is crucial that you take the right steps to protect your rights. Our experienced team of motorcycle accident attorneys is here to help. We can guide you through the process, ensuring you understand your options and helping you make informed decisions.

Don't try to navigate this challenging situation alone—contact us today to get in touch with our auto accident legal team for a free consultation and let us fight for the compensation you deserve.


Kevin J. McManus
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Kevin McManus is an accident injury and disability lawyer in Kansas City, MO, and Overland Park, KS
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