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Is Lane Splitting Legal in Arizona?

Posted On 04/19/19

Lane splitting and lane sharing refer to two vehicles riding side-by-side in the same lane, typically bicycles or motorcycles. Lane splitting may also refer to “white lining” or riding between adjacent lanes of traffic. Some believe the practice has several distinct safety advantages such as making side-by-side riders of small vehicles more visible and have greater nighttime visibility, while others claim the practice is too dangerous.

Lane Splitting in Arizona

In Arizona, lane splitting remains illegal under Arizona Code 28-903. However, the lane splitting vehicle code contains several stipulations and exceptions all Arizona riders should know.

  • Motorcyclists have the same rights as all other motor vehicle drivers and may make full use of a lane. Drivers may not maneuver in any way that deprives a motorcyclist of full use of a lane.
  • This lane splitting law does not apply to two motorcyclists riding side-by-side in the same lane, but no more than two motorcyclists may ride abreast in the same lane.
  • Motorcyclists may not overtake and pass another vehicle using the other vehicle’s lane. Just like other drivers, motorcyclists must fully pass another vehicle and execute a safe lane change to legally overtake and pass other drivers.
  • Motorcyclists may not “white line” or pass between adjacent lanes of traffic.

Currently, riders face traffic tickets and fines for violating Arizona’s lane splitting laws. However, when executed safety, lane splitting can actually offer distinct safety benefits. Motorcyclists enjoy greater visibility to other vehicles when riding two abreast in the same lane, but Arizona does not allow motorcyclists to maneuver between lanes of traffic. A proposed change to Code 28-903 in Arizona Senate Bill 1007 (SB 1007) would alter the existing law and provide motorcyclists more legal options to hopefully avoid crashes.

New Changes to the AZ Vehicle Code

The suggested change in SB 1007 follows similar changes in other states like California, which changed the law to encourage greater safety of the practice, improve traffic flow, and reprioritize traffic safety officer resources. Motorcyclists often argue in favor of legalizing lane splitting and white lining as long as riders execute these maneuvers responsibly. However, some riders believe the practice is unsafe because it can startle and anger other drivers, potentially prompting them to retaliate and endanger riders.

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

A recent University of California Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) study reported that lane splitting is reasonably safe at speeds of 50 mph or less as long as the passing motorcycle travels no faster than 15 mph faster than an overtaken vehicle. In some situations, white lining or lane splitting could be a lifesaving move.

  • White lining and allowing motorcyclists to pass between slower-moving adjacent lanes of traffic improves traffic flow and reduces accident rates.
  • If vehicles in front of a motorcyclist suddenly slow down or stop, the motorcyclist may only have the option of steering between leading vehicles to avoid a rear-end collision.
  • Lane splitting may help a motorcyclist avoid an obviously unsafe or inebriated driver.
  • Riders may need to use lane splitting to avoid a sudden road hazard, debris in the road, or wildlife.

Ultimately, many lawmakers believe such alterations to lane splitting laws are simply common-sense laws that encourage greater safety. Since many riders may engage in these practices regardless of the existing laws, alterations to the lane splitting laws compel the development of educational resources to help riders execute these maneuvers more responsibly.

The suggested change in Arizona would also require the Department of Public Safety to coordinate with the Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, and a motorcycle organization focused on rider safety to develop appropriate guidelines for the new lane splitting law. For now, all Arizona riders and riders crossing state lines into Arizona must abide by the state’s lane splitting laws immediately upon entering the state.

To learn more about your legal options after a lane splitting accident, contact our Phoenix motorcycle accident lawyers.