Posted in Motorcycle Accident on May 17, 2023
Lane-splitting is when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of cars that are driving in the same direction–this maneuver is illegal in Colorado. While many motorcyclists still take advantage of this practice due to its convenience, lane-splitting can be extremely dangerous.
To help you understand the legality of lane-splitting in Colorado, we’ve put together this guide on the current laws surrounding the practice. Keep reading for the full scoop, then contact the Denver motorcycle accident lawyers at Zaner Harden Law if you need help navigating the aftermath of a motorcycle accident.
Colorado is one of several states who’ve deemed it illegal for motorcyclists to pass or overtake a vehicle in the same lane because it is inherently dangerous. However, motorcyclists may “co-ride” or share their lane with another motorcycle riding side-by-side.
The ban on lane-splitting applies at all times, even when traffic is at a complete stop. However, motorcyclists in Colorado may ride on a designated shoulder when traffic is stopped, but they must move back into the lane of traffic when traffic starts moving again.
This is a convenient alternative to lane-splitting, however, you should still be cautious when riding on the shoulder. Loose gravel can be a serious safety hazard, and cars sometimes go into the shoulder when braking to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times while on your motorcycle.
The unpredictability of other vehicles is the primary reason why lane-splitting can be such a dangerous endeavor. Drivers of larger vehicles can quickly change lanes or swerve without warning, leaving motorcyclists with little time to react. If a driver suddenly moves their vehicle to the side while a motorcyclist is lane-splitting, the motorcyclist may be at risk of colliding with that car or another vehicle.
When traffic is at a standstill, drivers might not expect motorcyclists to pass between them. As such, they may not be watching out for riders who are lane-splitting and may open their car doors into the motorcyclist’s path.
Another potential danger of lane-splitting involves the risk of drifting from either lane. While drivers should stay in the middle of their lane, various factors such as distractions, drowsiness, intoxication, ice, or even heavy winds can cause them to drift toward the side of their lane. Lane-splitting motorcyclists may be at risk of colliding with the side of a car if its driver drifts toward them.
Although Colorado lawmakers have previously introduced bills to legalize lane-splitting, none have passed. Those who shot down the bills have cited safety concerns as the primary reason for not passing them.
HB23-1059 was recently introduced to require the Colorado Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the Colorado State Patrol, to conduct a feasibility study of legalizing lane-splitting. The bill would require that CDOT report the results of the study to the transportation committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate by December 31, 2023.
Despite the very real risks of lane-splitting, proponents of legalizing the practice in Colorado argue that it improves safety outcomes for motorcyclists. They point to the fact that sitting in slow-moving traffic can put motorcyclists in the danger zone of rear-end collisions, particularly if they’re riding smaller bikes. The idea is that by practicing lane-splitting, motorcyclists can keep moving and reduce their risk of being hit from behind.
If lane-splitting is eventually legalized in Colorado, the state would likely set safety guidelines for its practice. These may include not exceeding a certain speed while lane-splitting, making sure to leave enough space between the motorcycle and other vehicles, and limiting the practice to specific roads or lanes.
Only time will tell whether lane-splitting will become legal in Colorado. In the meantime, motorcyclists should avoid the practice for two main reasons: first, because it’s illegal, and second, lane-splitting could affect the outcome of a potential personal injury case.
If you must pass another vehicle while riding, you should only do so by using the designated shoulder and only when traffic is completely stopped. Otherwise, focus on staying safe and following all of the rules of the road.
If you find yourself in a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced Denver motorcycle accident lawyer to ensure your rights are protected. The team at Zaner Harden Law can evaluate the details of your case and determine whether you may be eligible for compensation.