Understand Florida’s lane-splitting laws so you can protect your rights on the road
Lane splitting is the practice of maneuvering a motorcycle in between rows of cars, usually to get through traffic faster. It is illegal in nearly all U.S. states, including Florida. Despite this fact, you can see motorcyclists doing it almost every day on any highway in the U.S., especially during standstills and traffic jams.
Notably, lane splitting is a different practice than lane sharing. Motorcycles can share a lane while riding two abreast in nearly every U.S. state, including Florida.
Is lane splitting legal in Florida?
The state of Florida considers lane splitting a dangerous practice. If the practice is involved in an at-fault accident, it may increase the motorcycle rider’s liability. There also is a likelihood of fines if a patrol officer pulls a motorcyclist over for the practice.
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Operating a motorcycle is dangerous in general, and this is one of the reasons the law comes down hard on reckless riding maneuvers.
According to the NHTSA, over 5,000 motorcyclists were killed on American highways in 2019. Likewise, the NHTSA reports that motorcycle fatalities occur at 29 times the rate per vehicle miles driven as car accident fatalities.
When you factor in dangerous maneuvers like lane splitting, the odds get even worse. Lane splitting runs the risk of bringing a motorcycle into close contact with moving vehicles.
It’s difficult for 2 drivers to maintain safe distances when they’re in range of clipping a motorcycle’s mirrors with their own. Worse, a heavy wind gust is all that’s necessary to push the larger vehicle into the bike, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences.
Arguments over whether lane splitting should be legal
Some pro-motorcyclist groups advocate for the legalization of lane splitting in the state of Florida. Foremost, they argue that staying in a lane with larger vehicles poses its own set of risks to bikers. In many cases, getting out of the lane is the best way to avoid a potential collision.
Secondly, lane splitting does improve traffic flow during congestion. However, it’s notable that Florida law already carves out exceptions to allow lane splitting when other vehicle traffic isn’t moving.
If the bike is going slower than 25 mph and faster than 10 mph, the practice is perfectly legal. Also, when traffic is moving above 25 mph, lane splitting can slow traffic down as drivers try to avoid hitting motorcycles.
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Penalties for lane splitting in the state of Florida
The criminal penalty for lane splitting in Florida is a fine of up to $500. Notably, other charges are possible if a police officer determines that a rider’s actions constituted reckless driving.
Also, an operator can’t assert the defense that they come from one of the lane-splitting legal states like California. When a biker rides on Florida’s roadways, they concede to the primacy of Florida’s motor vehicle laws.
Unlike car accidents, motorcycle accidents tend to result in more severe injuries and fatalities due to the lack of protection and stability offered by 4-wheeled vehicles.
Who’s liable for accidents involving lane splitting?
While criminal and civil proceedings are separate matters, a claimant in a motorcycle accident case has every right to bring a biker’s criminal conviction for an incident into the case. It is also worth noting that the criminal nature of lane splitting affects injury liability. As the act is illegal, it will increase a rider’s liability since a finding of criminal responsibility demonstrates gross negligence on the part of a rider.
This doesn’t guarantee that the motorcyclist will be found at fault, though. When an insurance adjuster or jury has to assess liability, they have to factor in both sides’ contributions to an accident. Other drivers have as much of a duty to avoid hitting motorbikes as the riders do to avoid hitting cars, after all.
It is worth noting that the speed rules do provide some wiggle room for defendants in both criminal and civil cases that focus on lane splitting. If a biker can show that they were operating within Florida’s exception for low-speed lane splitting, they might be able to defend against an injury claim or lawsuit. A motorcyclist also has to show they signaled properly and weren’t recklessly weaving in and out of traffic.
For a claim to be successful, the insurance adjuster has to determine that it’s more likely than not that the biker was at fault for the accident. The insurance company will assign the percentage of the biker’s fault and then deduct whatever percentage was the claimant’s fault. A jury would follow a similar procedure in determining liability if a case goes to a civil trial.
When to contact a Florida motorcycle accident attorney
Given the complexities of injury claims involving lane splitting, it’s best to contact a motorcycle attorney familiar with the specific motorcycle laws in Florida. A lawyer can assess what the contributing factors were in a case, such as whether the rider’s maneuvers represented an instance where lane splitting is legal in Florida. The attorney can then tell you whether you’re likely to prevail in getting compensation and how much they believe you should seek.
Judges, juries, police officers and insurance companies often have preconceived biases about motorcycle drivers. They are often assumed to be reckless, unsafe drivers who hold little to no regard for other motorists. This attitude frequently carries over into important decisions regarding a motorcyclist’s injury claim.
Because of the requirements for proving guilt and the existence of unfair biases, it pays to hire an attorney who is familiar with motorcycle injury cases and is aware of the different obstacles that exist in comparison with automobile accidents.