The American Motorcyclist Association supports the efforts of Texas motorcyclists and politicians to enact laws during this legislative session that would permit riders to travel between cars using the maneuver commonly known as lane splitting.
Two bills under consideration would legalize this practice.
H.B. 813, introduced by state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. (D-Palmview), would allow motorcycle riders to ride between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, if traffic is traveling 20 mph or slower, and if the motorcyclist is not traveling more than 5 mph faster than other traffic. Lane splitting would be prohibited in school zones and in areas where the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less. And riders and passengers must wear helmets. S.B. 442, introduced by state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), omits the helmet provision, but restricts lane splitting to limited-access or controlled-access highways.
The AMA objects to the helmet requirement in the Muñoz bill.
"The AMA endorses rider responsibility and actions that make roadways safer for motorcyclists," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations. "Research and evidence suggest that lane splitting may reduce a motorcyclist's risk exposure, which is why the AMA offers conditional support to Texas H.B. 813 and S.B. 442, legislations that would allow lane splitting with the stated restrictions."
The AMA opposes the helmet requirement in H.B. 813, because adults should have the right to make their own safety decisions.
"A motorcycle helmet is an important piece of safety gear that the AMA strongly encourages riders to wear, but we believe just as strongly that the choice should be left to adult motorcyclists," Allard said.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous situations for any motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions increase the risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard.
Reducing a motorcyclist's exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce front- and rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic. A 2014 study conducted in California supports this assertion by demonstrating that motorcyclists engaging in responsible lane splitting were less likely to be rear ended, suffer a head injury or be involved in a fatal crash.
Other potential benefits include an increase in conspicuity because the motorcyclist is moving relative to other traffic; a reduction in motorcyclist fatigue from constant shifting and braking in stop-and-go traffic; a lessening of the risk for engine damage for air-cooled engines; a reduction in motorcyclists' exposure to ambient heat in the summer and car exhaust year-round due to fewer hours spent in traffic.
Motorcycle lane splitting is a common practice in many countries throughout the world — particularly in the highly urbanized areas of Europe and Asia. Long recognized as a way to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the risk of crashes, the practice nevertheless remains largely prohibited in the United States, with California currently being the exception.
More information about the AMA's position on lane splitting can be found here: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/PositionStatements/LaneSplitting.aspx.
More information about the AMA's position on voluntary helmet use can be found here: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/PositionStatements/VoluntaryHelmetUse.aspx.