Is Lane Splitting in Texas Legal?
California was the first state to legalize lane splitting, but Texas may not be far behind. Lane splitting refers to a motorcyclist driving between traffic lanes on highways in slow or stopped traffic. While there remains an ongoing debate about the safety of lane splitting, Texas lawmakers are ruling on the legality of this practice. There are two bills currently in front of the legislature that could make lane splitting legal in Texas in certain situations.
Current Texas Lane-Splitting Laws
As of today, Texas state laws do not allow lane splitting in any form – much to the annoyance of many riders and other motorists who believe the practice could ease heavy traffic in metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Austin. Texas law considers motorcycles the same as cars, so riders caught lane splitting can face traffic tickets for illegal passing. Lane-splitting advocates are fighting to make the practice legal by supporting the two bills currently in front of the legislature.
This is not the first time Texas has attempted to legalize lane splitting – in fact, it’s the third time. In 2009, similar legislation came about by a senator but it never made it to the House for a vote. Last session, Senator Kirk Watson introduced the bill, but it did not receive a hearing. This time around, it’s Senator Watson’s movement again in the form of Senate Bill 288. The bill moves to allow lane splitting in very specific circumstances, with rules motorcyclists must obey to stay within the confines of the law.
About Senate Bill 288
Should Senate Bill 288 pass, the law will allow motorcyclists to ride between lanes in Texas without breaking the law. Sen. Watson is quick to explain, however, that the bill does not permit motorcyclists speeding between cars or going 75 miles per hour in stopped traffic. Here is a basic overview of when SB 288 would allow lane splitting:
- On a limited-access or controlled-access highway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic
- During periods of traffic congestion, moving in the same direction as traffic
- If the operator operates at a speed not more than five miles per hour greater than other traffic
- When other drivers are moving at a speed of 20 miles per hour or less
The bill stipulates that motorcyclists engaging in lane splitting could at no point travel faster than 25 miles per hour during the roadway maneuver. Furthermore, motorcyclists must obey existing laws in Section 545.060 of the Transportation Code, which states that motorcyclists shall not move from the lane unless they can do so safely. Should the bill pass, it would go into effect September 1, 2017.
Supporters of the bill believe it would ease heavy traffic congestion in Texas’s metropolitan areas and make lane splitting a safe practice for the community. Some also say it will help motorcycle engines by preventing idling. Those against the bill worry it will lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents and fatalities due to drivers failing to see motorcyclists driving between lanes. It will be up to legislators to debate these arguments and either pass the bill or deny it for a third time in Texas’s history.
Protect Yourself as a Motorcyclist in Texas
Currently, Senate Bill 288 is awaiting referral to committee. While lane splitting remains illegal in Texas, the best thing you can do to protect your rights is to stay within your lane and wait in traffic congestion alongside other motorists. Seek help from an Austin motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible after a lane-splitting incident in Texas to reduce your chances of the courts finding you 51% or more at fault for your accident.