The practices of lane sharing and filtering, where motorcycles and scooters are permitted to pass between rows of slow-moving vehicles and to move to the front of queued vehicles at traffic lights, (road and traffic conditions permitting}, is common in most of Europe, the UK and Asia and is legal in California. Laws prohibiting these practices remain throughout the rest of the United States, and the justification seems nebulous. We are inclined to blame ignorance and envy.
Objections to lane sharing (also called threading, white-lining, filtering and/or lane splitting) are typically attributed to poor confidence in motorists. In 2010 Arizona’s lawmakers passed a bill to legalize lane sharing, and Governor Jan Brewer defied the will of her constituents and vetoed it. The director of the Arizona’s Office of Highway Safety said his biggest concern is that it would create confusion for drivers.
Some temporary confusion would have been far preferable to the grisly deaths of four motorcyclists – and the grave injuries of five others – who were run over from behind and dragged 75 yards by an out-of-control garbage truck in Phoenix whose driver was “fishing for papers”.
The Hurt Report – long considered the bible of motorcycle safety in the United States, and a foundation upon which much of our motorcycle -related regulation and legislation is built – concluded that lane sharing improves overall motorcycle safety by preventing rear-end collisions. Likewise, the US DOT’s FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) reveals a 30% lower fatality rate for rear-end collisions with motorcyclists in California where lane sharing is legal and commonplace. A recent study in Michigan indicated that almost 9% of serious motorcycle accidents were caused by automobiles colliding with motorcycles from behind.
According to the NHTSA, a motorcyclist is 37 percent more likely to die in a crash than a passenger vehicle occupant. Protective gear can only do so much.
Lane sharing provides vulnerable motorcyclists an escape route from collisions.
Lane sharing is not only safe, it is also a practical solution to urban and highway traffic congestion. Lane sharing allows better utilization of available roadway, does not impede other traffic, and helps promote the use of vehicles which are more space-efficient, more fuel-efficient and “green”, and which don’t need to repeatedly circle the block or idle while double-parked as their pilots hunt for elusive parking spaces.
Non-motorcyclists may not realize that a responsible rider using a full-face helmet and protective clothing can be uncomfortably and even dangerously hot in stop and go traffic on a warm summer day. The resulting heat exhaustion leads to foggy thought processes and unsafe vehicle operation. By allowing a motorcycle rider to keep moving and find his or her own breeze, those risks are mitigated.
The NYMSTF encourages all motorcyclists to lobby their elected officials to strike laws prohibiting lane sharing and to promote laws and policies which enable motorcyclists to safely filter past stopped and slow traffic.