Lane splitting, where motorcycles cut between cars on major roadways, is a point of contention in many legal circles. It is legal in some states, like California. So the question arises, should Texas follow suit? It is currently on the minds of lawmakers in the Lone Star State. Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview, and Sen. Kirk Watson, D- Austin, have introduced bills that would allow lane-splitting on designated roads where traffic is moving at 20 mph or less. But is it a good idea?
Benefits, Stipulations, and Precedence
As one of the most populated cities in the country, Dallas, Texas is known for its congested roadways. Lane-splitting would ease the flow of traffic, which proponents of the bill say would actually increase safety. “It is important to understand that my bill would not allow motorcycles to zip and weave through fast-moving traffic,” Watson said in a public statement. “Lane-splitting would actually make the roads safer for motorcyclists who are most vulnerable to rear-end collisions in stop-and-go traffic.”
A key distinction in the two bills lies in the use of helmets. While Munoz’s House Bill would allow lane splitting on any road as long as the motorist is wearing a helmet, Watson’s Senate bill would only allow lane splitting on controlled-access highways and carries no helmet restriction.
California is currently the only state that allows lane-splitting. Although the action is not strictly prohibited or allowed by law, an estimated 80% of motorcyclists lane split. Former California Highway Control officer supports lane splitting because of its potential to protect motorcyclists.
“Allowing them to move between vehicles in a safe manner lessens their likelihood of much more serious injury, and it also allows for the free-flow of traffic,” he told CBS This Morning.
“One of the main reasons we do it is to be safe,” added motorcyclist Sebastian Rodriguez. “If a car rear-ends a car, it is a bumper that gets broken. If a car rear-ends a motorcyclist, it could be a leg that gets broken.”
Science on Their Side?
A recent study from the University of California at Berkeley found that motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be hit from behind by other drivers on the road. They are also less likely to suffer torso or head injuries and are less likely to sustain injuries in a crash that could prove to be fatal. For this reason, the American Motorcyclist Association supports the use of lane splitting.
So Why Not Lane Split?
Opponents of the measure still believe lane-splitting is too dangerous to be allowed. Since lane splitting will only occur in heavy traffic, the implications can be unsettling. After all, how many times have we seen someone swerve a little to the left to get a better look at what’s causing the backup? The general sentiment among opponents is that lane-splitting can go wrong very quickly.
“You are going to have that one wise-guy (car driver) that is going to cut you off, open a door, or scare you while he’s sitting in traffic, and you are passing by… and it only takes one time,” motorcyclist Chris Riveria told CBS news.
Human error or road rage are things to keep in mind when considering the ramifications of lane-splitting.
How Should the Texas Legislature Rule?
Even the U.S. Department of Transportation admits that lane splitting can “provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.” In light of the evidence, it seems that lane splitting in Texas should be allowed, as long as doing it properly (i.e. under the speeds of 20 mph) is enforced.
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