Why isn’t lane splitting legal for motorcycle drivers in Florida?

Local News

Each week, Traffic Reporter Meredyth Censullo responds to viewers’ road rants. Today, the question has to do with the behavior of motorcycle drivers.

Stacey writes, “I see motorcycles driving in between lanes and on the shoulders all the time during rush hour traffic. Is or isn’t, legal?”

That’s called “lane splitting,” and, according to Florida Statue 316.209, it’s illegal. 

316.209 Operating motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic.—
(1) All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This subsection shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.
(2) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
(3) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
(4) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
(5) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply to police officers or firefighters in the performance of their official duties.
(6) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
History.—s. 1, ch. 71-135; s. 1, ch. 76-31; s. 165, ch. 99-248; s. 1, ch. 2003-92.
Note.—Former s. 316.109.

While lane splitting is legal in Europe and Asia, the only state that has legalized the maneuver is California, although there have been efforts to legalize it in at least nine other states, including Florida.

Many motorcycle riders argue that lane splitting is safer than being in bumper-to-bumper traffic. There isn’t a lot of data on the safety of lane splitting, however the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the practice is worthy of further study, because it may offer a means of reducing congestion in addition to possible safety benefits. 

The NHTSA calls lane splitting an option that “can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.”

A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley found that lane splitting is a “relatively safe” strategy if it’s done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less and motorcyclists don’t exceed other vehicles’ speed by more than 15 mph. The study also concluded that lane-splitting motorcyclists were less likely to suffer head or torso injuries or die in a crash that those who did not use the maneuver appropriately.

The cost of a traffic citation for lane splitting in Florida varies by county. In Hillsborough County, the fine is $153, according to the Clerk of Court. However, only a handful of citations are written. In 2017, there were 14 tickets written. Eight citations have been written so far this year.

Lane splitting is not the same as lane sharing, which in Florida defines the act as two motorcycles occupying one lane of traffic. That is legal.

Have a Road Rant for Meredyth? Contact her on Facebook.

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