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Posted on July 31, 2023 in Personal Injury
Riding between lanes of traffic on a motorcycle is called “lane splitting.” But is this practice legal in South Carolina, and if not, what are the implications for doing so – particularly if it ends in an accident?
Lane splitting is riding a motorcycle on top of lane divider lines or between rows of stopped or slow traffic rather than within the marked travel lane. The point is to take advantage of the motorcycle’s smaller size to move ahead of traffic jams. Some riders argue that lane splitting protects them from being rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic, as a collision that might be a fender-bender between two cars could produce a serious injury if the rear-ended motorist is a biker with no bumper or vehicle frame to protect them.
Advocates for lane splitting argue that the practice reduces motorcyclists’ risk of getting rear-ended in heavy traffic. They also say that the practice can help reduce congestion by allowing motorcycles to ride between rows of passenger vehicles, freeing up lane space for cars and trucks.
Opponents of lane splitting argue that the practice increases the risk of accidents for motorcycle riders because drivers do not expect it. Drivers may collide with lane-splitting riders when changing lanes. Some argue that lane splitting encourages road rage from drivers who become frustrated when motorcycles pass them while they stay stuck in traffic.
In some states, lane splitting is neither expressly prohibited nor expressly allowed. South Carolina is not among them. South Carolina law explicitly forbids lane splitting. Section 56-5-3640(c) of the South Carolina Code of Laws expressly states, “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
For those who are curious, California is the only state that explicitly allows motorcycle riders to lane split, although a handful of states permit other practices related to lane splitting, such as lane filtering.
If a motorcycle rider gets into an accident while lane splitting, the driver who hit them may argue that the rider shares some of the fault for the crash because their illegal behavior contributed to the collision. For example, the driver may argue that they wouldn’t have hit the motorcycle rider while changing lanes if the rider hadn’t lane split.
South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence rule, which holds that an injured motorcycle rider may still recover compensation from an at-fault motorist so long as the rider’s share of fault doesn’t exceed that of the other motorist. In other words, lane splitting alone might not prevent you from recovering compensation from a motorist who hit you if the courts find your negligence was not greater than theirs.
If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident that someone else caused, turn to the attorneys of The Melonakos Law Firm for help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a motorcycle accident lawyer in South Carolina, and we’ll explain your rights and options for pursuing justice.