Is Lane Splitting Legal in West Virginia?

September 25, 2020

Lane splitting, often called lane sharing or lane filtering, involves riding between two lanes of traffic that are traveling in the same direction while riding a motorcycle. Lane splitting is illegal in the state of West Virginia, just as it is in every other state except for California. Any motorcyclist who is caught lane splitting could face fines. Additionally, if a motorcyclist gets into an accident while they are lane splitting, they may face liability for injuries and damages. 

Defining Lane Splitting

Lane splitting has long been controversial in both motorcyclist and non-motorcyclist communities. Most drivers on the roadway have seen lane splitting in some form. If you have witnessed a motorcyclist traveling between two lanes of traffic that are moving in the same direction, then you have seen lane splitting. Sometimes a motorcyclist will lane split through flowing traffic, but often motorcyclists lane split when traffic has stopped at a stoplight. 

The Motorcycle Operator Manual in West Virginia clearly states that riding a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles leaves the motorcyclist vulnerable to accidents and injuries. Some of the potential hazards that motorcyclists face in these scenarios include:

  • Opening car doors 
  • Hands coming out of windows 
  • Vehicles turning suddenly 
  • Vehicles changing lanes 

Lane splitting in West Virginia means that a motorcyclist is breaking the law. If a law enforcement officer catches a motorcyclist lane splitting, they could issue them a citation that carries significant penalties and fines. 

Liability for a Lane Splitting Accident in West Virginia 

If a motorcyclist is involved in an accident while they are lane splitting, this could have disastrous results on their liability for the incident. A motorcyclist may not have grounds to pursue compensation from any party involved in the incident if they were lane splitting at the time the accident occurred. It is likely that insurance carriers or courts would hold the motorcyclist responsible for the crash. 

West Virginia follows a modified comparative negligence system. This means that a person can recover compensation if they are less than 50% at fault for the incident. However, lane splitting could bring the motorcyclist’s fault to 50% or more, resulting in them being unable to recover compensation for their losses. 

The Continued Debate Surrounding Lane Splitting

Motorcyclists and motorcycle advocates have long argued that lane splitting can help reduce accidents. According to studies from U.C. Berkley, data indicates that lane splitting actually increases motorcyclist safety by reducing the chance that the cyclist will be rear-ended in stop and go traffic. Researchers observed that lane splitting is generally safe if it happens in traffic moving slower than 50 mph and as long as the motorcyclist does not travel 15 mph faster than surrounding traffic. 

However, these safety arguments have only been persuasive in the state of California, the only place where lane splitting is currently legal. Other states across the country have examined legalizing lane splitting, but West Virginia legislators have not drafted any preliminary bills that would legalize lane splitting for motorcyclists. 

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