Lane splitting is not legal in South Carolina.
Although it is legal in some states, and many motorcyclists believe it should be legal in all states, in SC it could 1) shut down your possibility of recovering damages after a motorcycle crash and 2) make you liable for damages after an accident.
In this article, we will discuss lane splitting in SC, including:
- SC laws on lane splitting,
- What lane splitting means,
- Whether lane splitting is safe for motorcyclists, and
- The difference between lane filtering (also illegal in SC) and lane splitting.
Lane Splitting is Illegal in SC
Lane splitting, also called white-lining or lane filtering, is when a motorcyclist drives between two lanes of traffic to pass other vehicles along the white line.
Lane splitting is illegal in South Carolina, and it is prohibited by SC Code Section 56-5-3640:
(a) All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such a manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.
(b) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
If you are driving a motorcycle, you are entitled to the full use of your lane – it is illegal for another vehicle to attempt to pass you in your lane or to attempt to drive next to you in your lane.
This doesn’t apply to other motorcycles, however – lane sharing by two motorcycles is legal in SC.
A motorcyclist cannot:
- Pass another vehicle in the other vehicle’s lane,
- Drive between two lanes of traffic or rows of vehicles, or
- Drive with more than two motorcycles in the same lane.
What Effect will Lane Splitting Have on Your Motorcycle Accident Case?
Because lane splitting is illegal in SC, it will be considered negligence per se. Depending on the circumstances, it could 1) shut down any claims you may have had against another driver in a motorcycle crash, or 2) result in liability against you for causing a crash while lane splitting.
Does Lane Splitting Cause Motorcycle Accidents?
Depending on who you ask or what study you read, lane splitting is either perfectly safe and reduces motorcycle crashes, or it is very dangerous and increases motorcycle crashes.
Of course, it also depends on the care taken by the motorcyclist, their experience riding, and the relative speeds of the vehicles they are passing. When you read the literature carefully, it is apparent that, although lane splitting may be dangerous, lane filtering may decrease the number of motorcycle wrecks.
What is Lane Filtering and Why Isn’t it Legal?
Lane filtering is lane splitting at slow speeds. When traffic is 1) stopped or 2) moving slowly, it is safer for motorcycles to pass between lanes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motorcycle Safety Foundation says that lane filtering (they call it lane splitting but they are talking about slow-speed lane splitting) may decrease the number of motorcycle crashes when the motorcycle is traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars:
A motorcycle’s narrow width can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap. This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind. There is evidence (Hurt, 1981) that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.
Another study from UC Berkeley found that lane filtering reduced the likelihood of severe injuries in motorcycle crashes (they also call it lane splitting, but they are talking about traffic moving at speeds of 50 mph or less where the motorcycle does not exceed the speed of the other vehicles by more than 15 mph):
An analysis conducted by researchers from UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) found that lane-splitting is relatively safe if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph…
Also compared with other motorcyclists involved in a collision, lane-splitting riders were less likely to suffer head injury (9 percent versus 17 percent), torso injury (19 percent versus 29 percent) and fatal injury (1.2 percent versus 3 percent).
SC Lane Splitting Laws and Establishing Liability in a Motorcycle Crash
If you are lane splitting or lane filtering in SC, it will be considered negligence because there is a SC law expressly prohibiting it.
If you are lane sharing in SC with another motorcycle, that is not considered negligence unless you are leaving your lane or committing another traffic violation.
If you are lane splitting and your motorcycle crash is caused by someone else’s negligence, you may still be able to recover if the other driver was clearly more negligent than you – what if, for example, you are lane splitting but another driver intentionally rams your motorcycle or runs you off the road?
Under SC’s comparative negligence law, you can be up to 50% at fault in an accident and still recover damages (reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you).
Questions About Lane Splitting in SC?
If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident because of another driver’s carelessness, the Myrtle Beach motorcycle accident attorneys at Coastal Law want to help you to recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the facts of your case and SC law.
Call now for a free consultation to discuss your case, by calling (843) 488-5000 or sending us an email.