Motorcycling is extremely popular in South Carolina, especially during the summertime. There are few activities that provide a greater sense of freedom than enjoying the fresh open air on your motorcycle while taking in all of the natural scenic beauty the Palmetto State has to offer. But with the ease and adventure of motorcycling comes a number of safety concerns for both riders and motorists who share the road with them; and among these is the issue of motorcycles and lane splitting.
What is Lane Splitting?
Simply put, lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic or between two vehicles that are driving in the same direction. This will often involve driving on the median line that separates two lanes on a multi-lane road or highway. Riders typically lane split when traffic is moving slowly or at a standstill, allowing them to filter through a traffic jam and more quickly reach their destination.
Is Lane Splitting Legal?
That depends on what state you are in. Lane splitting is only explicitly permitted in California. Utah has a law allowing lane “filtering”, but it is more restrictive than California’s lane splitting law. Of the other 48 states, some explicitly prohibit lane splitting, while others do not have any laws that address the practice.
For example, lane splitting is prohibited here in South Carolina under S.C. Code § 56-5-3640: “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”
Up the road in North Carolina, there are no laws that address lane splitting, so the practice is not illegal. Therefore, it is generally assumed that motorcyclists are allowed to split lanes in the Tar Heel state.
It is important to note that lane splitting should not be confused with lane sharing, which is the practice of two motorcycles riding side-by-side in the same lane. Lane sharing is permitted in South Carolina under the same statute, as long as it is only two motorcycles sharing the same lane: “Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.”
Is Lane Splitting Safe?
This is a question that has been widely debated over the past several years. Although most US states prohibit the practice or are silent on the issue, lane splitting is common practice in many other parts of the world. This is particularly true in heavily congested urban areas in Europe and Asia.
The American Motorcyclist Association endorses lane splitting, noting the success of the practice in California and a University of California Berkeley study showing that it enhances motorcycle safety. The AMA says, “This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.”
The AMA also points to evidence from the Hurt Report, a comprehensive motorcycle crash causation study that showed that lane splitting slightly reduces crash frequency. And they say that this practice can significantly reduce traffic congestion as well.
Who is At Fault for a Lane Splitting Collision in South Carolina?
Since lane splitting is currently illegal in South Carolina, if a motorcyclist is injured in a crash while splitting lanes, they are likely to be found at fault for the collision to some degree. And if you try to file an injury claim with the other driver’s insurer, the insurance adjuster might try to use this fact to significantly reduce your compensation or dismiss your claim altogether.
But while the fact that you were lane splitting will certainly complicate your claim, it does not necessarily mean you cannot recover fair compensation for your injuries. South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that an injured party can still recover damages as long as they were less than 50% at fault for the underlying accident. However, any damages you are entitled to are reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault you share.
For example, if you sustained a total of $150,000 in losses and you are found to be 30% at fault for the accident, your damage award would be reduced by $45,000, down to a total of $105,000. In a case like this, you will need to get an experienced motorcycle accident attorney involved as early as possible, so they can begin building your case and working toward securing the just compensation you deserve.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in South Carolina? Contact Peake and Fowler for Assistance
When a motorcyclist gets hurt in a crash, it can result in very serious injuries. And even if you were lane splitting when the collision occurred, this does not necessarily mean that you should be barred from recovering compensation. If this has happened to you or someone close to you, Peake and Fowler is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at 803-788-4370 for a free, no obligation consultation and case assessment. We are ready to go to work for you!