Is Lane Splitting Legal in North Carolina? (2024)

Every state has unique laws pertaining to different types of drivers, and all drivers face various risks on roads in the state. However, motorcycles are inherently some of the most dangerous vehicles that anyone can operate due to their lack of safety features and minimal physical protection for the rider in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, some motorcyclists engage in risky maneuvers while riding that increase their risks of experiencing damaging accidents.

One issue that commonly arises in motorcycle accident claims is “lane splitting,” a term used to describe any situation in which a motorcyclist weaves between lanes of slower-moving traffic. Some believe that allowing motorcyclists to split lanes or “filter” through lanes of stopped traffic to the head of the pack removes them from stop-and-go traffic and makes them more visible to other nearby motorists. The state strongly advises against lane splitting, citing the increased risk of accidents to happen.

What Is Lane Splitting?

“Lane splitting” is a term often used interchangeably with “lane sharing” and “filtering,” but these terms technically apply to different actions. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist drives between lanes of slower-moving traffic. Lane sharing generally refers to two motorcyclists sharing space in the same lane. Filtering is the act of moving through a group of stopped vehicles at an intersection to be the first to move once the light changes to green.

Lane splitting is explicitly outlawed in many states, while some advise against it without enforcing any laws that outright ban the practice. It is important to note that while the state does not explicitly ban the practice, lane splitting inherently increases the risk of an accident. If an accident does occur, the motorcyclist may not have any grounds for legal recourse as they would likely be deemed to be partially responsible for the accident.

What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident

North Carolina upholds the fault rule for resolving motor vehicle accidents. This means that the driver who caused the accident is responsible for the resulting damages, and every driver in the state must have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements. If you are involved in an accident that someone else caused, you likely have grounds to file an auto insurance claim against them. If the insurance claim settlement you receive does not fully cover your damages, you can proceed with a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver to recover your outstanding damages.

When lane-splitting causes an accident, fault will typically fall to whoever splits the lane. If any disputes regarding liability arise, the parties involved will respectively gather evidence and witness testimony to resolve the case. If you are involved in any type of lane-splitting accident, it’s vital to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to have the greatest chance of recovering from your damages successfully. Your attorney will know the most effective strategy for approaching your case and how to gather the evidence needed to establish the other driver’s fault.

Motorcycles offer minimal protection to riders when accidents happen, and even the highest quality safety gear and helmets cannot fully protect against injury in a serious accident. The risk of catastrophic injury or death is much higher in a motorcycle accident than in other types of vehicle accidents, and many victims face very challenging legal proceedings in response to these accidents. Motorcyclists can limit their risk of facing liability for an accident by avoiding lane splitting and leaving space in front of their bike to allow for as much time and space to stop as possible if traffic flow suddenly changes.

FAQs About Lane Splitting Legality in North Carolina

Is Lane Splitting Ever Allowed?

The only situation in which lane splitting may be deemed appropriate is if a motorcyclist can split a lane to avoid a rear-end collision with another vehicle in front of them. For example, if a motorcyclist is riding behind another driver who suddenly applies their brakes, the motorcyclist could have a moment to swerve and split the lane ahead, avoiding a crash. However, drivers are expected to leave room between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them to minimize the risk of a rear-end collision happening.

Is Lane Splitting the Same as Filtering?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but “filtering” typically refers to a motorcyclist moving between lanes of stopped vehicles, usually at an intersection. Some motorcyclists will do this to get ahead of the vehicles around them and position themselves in the front of the group waiting at an intersection for the light to change. Lane filtering is illegal in the state.

Who Is at Fault for a Lane-Splitting Accident?

State law prohibits any driver from attempting to share a lane with another vehicle, so the driver who engages in lane splitting and causes an accident is likely to absorb fault for the incident. If you have recently been involved in a lane-splitting accident and you are not sure who is to blame, it is vital to consult an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney as soon as possible.

What Is the Penalty for Lane Sharing or Lane Splitting?

If you cause an accident through lane splitting or lane sharing, you face liability for the resulting damages. Similarly, if another driver hit you because you split a lane, you would be unable to seek compensation for your damages from the other driver due to North Carolina’s contributory negligence law. A judge would likely deem that you share fault for the accident, thereby invoking the state’s contributory negligence rule and nullifying your ability to seek compensation from the defendant.

The attorneys at Christina Rivenbark & Associates have many years of professional experience handling all manner of motor vehicle accident cases, including motorcycle accident claims and accidents resulting from lane splitting. If you are unsure how to proceed with seeking compensation for the damages you suffered in a lane-splitting accident, we can help. Contact us today and schedule a case review with our team to learn more about the legal services we can offer after an accident.

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