Is It Legal to Lane Split in North Carolina?

Lane splitting is a little like speeding. If a rider thinks they can do it safely to cut down on commute time, they’ll often take the chance. But is it legal? What are North Carolina’s lane splitting laws? Should lane splitting be legal in North Carolina?

Perhaps most importantly, if you’re involved in an accident while lane splitting, can you still get paid for your injuries? We’re here to answer your questions based on our extensive experience as motorcycle accident lawyers.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist cuts between lanes of slower moving traffic or pulls in front of stopped traffic at a red light. The practice also goes by whitelining, stripe-riding, and other names.

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist cuts between vehicles inside lanes on the road.

What Do North Carolina Motorcycle Laws on Lane Splitting Say?

Lane splitting is illegal in North Carolina.

While North Carolina law does not speak specifically on lane splitting, it does talk about lane sharing. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), motorcycles need their own full lanes to operate safely as riding between rows of cars, whether moving or stopped, can leave motorcyclists vulnerable to injury.

In fact, NCDOT literature directs drivers to actively discourage lane sharing attempts by others, including staying in the center of a lane when another driver or motorcyclist might be tempted to pass.

If you engage in lane splitting, your chances of punishment may depend on how you did it. Did you do it in a safe manner or were you speeding and acting recklessly? In addition, whether you face consequences from law enforcement may depend on how a nearby officer views the practice, which has spurred a lot of debate.

Pros and Cons of Lane Splitting in North Carolina

There are some compelling arguments in favor of lane splitting. As a practical matter, lane splitting means fewer vehicles and less traffic congestion during high-volume times like rush hour. From an environmental perspective, lane splitting can help reduce idling emissions.

The most important issue, of course, is the safety of everyone out on the road. Statistics show conclusively that the motorcycle fatality rate is much greater compared to cars. Nationally, motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed in a wreck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Advocates point out that lane splitting can help prevent a motorcyclist from becoming a stationary target in the event of an accident, particularly rear end accidents.

So does lane splitting keep motorcyclists safer? California, which permits lane splitting, tends to have slightly fewer fatalities from rear end collisions per registered motorcycle than many other states. But a lot can depend on how the lane splitting is done. One Berkeley study found that the risks of lane splitting can be reduced under certain circumstances. For example, the study found that splitting is safest at 50 MPH and under.

Opponents of lane splitting say too many motorcyclists are already dying, and allowing lane splitting would keep those numbers rising. Even at low lane splitting speeds, bikers are exposed to many dangers, including:

  • Unexpected door openings
  • Sudden lane changes from other vehicles
  • Vision impairment around large trucks
  • Collisions with turning vehicles

And the greater the speed differential between a lane splitting motorcyclist and nearby cars, the greater the danger. The same Berkeley study found that lane splitting motorcyclists should not be going more than 15 MPH faster than surrounding traffic. The reality of the road, however, dictates that this speed differential will often be exceeded.

Hurt in an Accident While Lane Splitting? Can You Still Be Compensated?

Were you in an accident caused by the negligence of another? If you were hurt while lane splitting, you may believe that whether you’re entitled to compensation for your injuries depends on if you were doing something illegal by lane splitting. While lane spitting may be illegal, the question of compensation is much more complicated than that.

North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. That means if the insurance company can show that you were even one percent at fault for an accident, you can be barred from receiving any compensation whatsoever. If an insurance adjuster learns you were lane splitting at the time of the wreck, they are highly likely to reject your claim. Lane splitting by the victim can provide an opening for the adjuster to argue you were at least partially at fault in the wreck.

But even if you were lane splitting at the time of the accident, that’s just one factor to consider. Before you make any decisions, contact a motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss how you might be able to counter the insurance company’s tactics.

When Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

There is nothing to lose in contacting an attorney right away. An attorney can offer support and guidance in the early stages when things are most confusing. Thanks to our contingency fee, hiring an attorney immediately also doesn’t cost you more.2

And that’s just one benefit of the James Scott Farrin Advantage. We have:

  1. A formidable team of respected attorneys with remarkable credentials
  2. Other side experience from the former insurance defense attorneys and professionals now on our team
  3. A strong track record, including more than 1.4 billion in total compensation for 55,000+ clients since 19971

Enjoy these benefits with no unneeded delays. Our cutting-edge software and optimized processes have been recognized nationally and, most importantly, praised repeatedly by clients.

Do you need one of our attorneys to evaluate your case for free? Call 1-866-900-7078 today!

About the Author

Michael Jordan is an attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in North Carolina and has been practicing law for more than 20 years. Mike assists clients with their personal injury, workers’ compensation, eminent domain, products liability, medical malpractice, mass tort, and other cases. He’s a member of the American Association for Justice and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), where he serves on the Legal Affairs Committee after previously serving on the Board of Governors. The NCAJ has recognized Mike’s active participation, service, and commitment by awarding him the “Order of Service” award most years since the award’s inception.