Riding a motorcycle is among the most enjoyable ways to commute. But with the benefits of motorcycling come many safety concerns. Motorcycles have a smaller profile, and it can be more difficult for other vehicle drivers to notice them. This is why there has been an ongoing “start seeing motorcycles” campaign for several decades now.
In Alabama, motorcycles are treated the same way as other vehicles. This means they are supposed to be given the same amount of lane space as a car. However, this also means that motorcyclists cannot split lanes.
Alabama Code – Section 32-5A-242 (c) makes clear that lane splitting is illegal in the Yellowhammer State, “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is the practice of riding between lanes to overtake stopped or slow-moving vehicles that are traveling in the same direction. A similar practice, called lane filtering, involves riding along the edge of a lane or using the shoulder to overtake vehicles. It is very tempting for motorcyclists to want to split or filter through lanes, especially when traffic is at a standstill and you are anxious to get to where you are going.
As mentioned previously, lane splitting is explicitly prohibited in Alabama, and a motorcyclist can receive a traffic citation for doing this. Most other states also prohibit this practice, or their laws are silent on the matter. The only state in which lane splitting is permitted by law is California. Utah has a more restrictive law that allows lane filtering but not splitting.
It is important to note that, while lane splitting in Alabama is illegal, lane sharing is allowed. Two motorcycles can ride alongside each other or in a staggered formation in a single lane, but three or more motorcycles in the same lane is not allowed.
How Safe is Lane Splitting?
This question has been the subject of much debate within the motorcycling community for many years. While most of the United States prohibits this practice, lane splitting is quite common in several other parts of the world. For example, motorcyclists in large cities in Asia and Europe regularly split lanes when there is heavy vehicle traffic.
The American Motorcyclist Association endorses the practice of lane splitting. They point to statistics that show that it has worked well in California, and they believe that it can reduce traffic congestion and reduce the number of incidents in which a motorcyclist gets trapped and hit from behind by a car.
Although the AMA believes that lane splitting is safe, most US states do not seem to be moving toward legalizing the practice. The stumbling block seems to be the idea that if you are going to treat motorcycles and vehicles equally, then you cannot allow motorcyclists to do something that another vehicle driver would not be able to do – regardless of how safe it is.
Alabama Contributory Negligence Laws and Lane Splitting
Since lane splitting is not legal in Alabama, it is never advisable for motorcyclists in our state to engage in this practice. This is true not only because you would be breaking the law, but also because you would be facing an uphill battle if you were to get injured in a motorcycle accident while splitting or filtering lanes.
Alabama is one of a handful of states that still applies the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine to personal injury cases. Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to have “contributed” at all to the underlying accident or event (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering damages. Most other states use some form of comparative negligence, which would allow an injured biker to obtain compensation even if they were partially at fault.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Accident Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to you suffered injury in any type of traffic accident, it always pays to at least speak with an attorney to review your case and find out what your rights and legal options are. If the accident happened in Alabama, contact Burge & Burge for assistance. Call our office today at 205-251-9000 or message us online for a free consultation. We look forward to serving you!