Lane Splitting in Kentucky and Tennessee

April 02 2020 | Blog
  • What is lane splitting and how can it affect your chances of obtaining financial compensation following a motorcycle accident in which you have become injured? Read on to discover answers to these important questions. 

    It is not difficult to appreciate and understand the enduring appeal of using a motorcycle as your primary or frequent means of transportation. Small size and excellent maneuverability allow motorcycles to move quickly and efficientlybe it through everyday city traffic or during long rides on open roads. What’s more, motorcycles are very fuel-efficient and emit less carbon dioxide than cars; they may be seen as a more eco-friendly means of transportation. Plus, when you use a motorcycle in a city, you are less likely to waste much time looking for an appropriate parking space.

    However, there is little doubt that riding a motorcycle is inherently more dangerous than driving a car. Unfortunately, all the features that can be considered advantages of the motorcycle are the exact same ones that make it a less safe means of transportation. In comparison to a car, a motorcycle offers little protection to its rider in the case of a crash. Its small size also makes the motorcycle much more difficult to notice in said trafficwhich exponentially increases the risk of getting hit by another vehicle. There’s little wonder, then, that motorcyclist deaths occur on average 28 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles.

    Sadly, maneuverability is often the incentive for motorcyclists to engage in riding practices that can further increase their risk of getting involved in dangerous accidents. One such practice is lane splitting. In this article, we offer an overview of the legal aspects of this common maneuver.

    What is Lane Splitting?

    Put simply, lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle between the two lanes of cars.  Motorcyclists often engage in lane splitting when the traffic is heavy as it allows them to move quicker than vehicles in either lane. 

    Many motorcyclists believe lane splitting can be safe as long as it is performed at the proper speed in relation to the surrounding traffic. Some riders also feel that lane splitting keeps them safe as it reduces the risk of being rear-endedan accident that can entail serious injuries for the motorcyclist. In fact, these ideas have been backed by some studies showing that lane-splitting may increase rider safety under certain conditions.  

    Nevertheless, lane splitting is generally considered to be a dangerous practice. For example, AAA spokesman John Townsend has commented: “Lane splitting is dangerous to both motorcycle riders and vehicle operators and could result in side-swipe and turn-into-path collisions and crashes as drivers in moving traffic may not expect to be passed by an object speeding between traffic lanes.” 

    Such comments also seem to be backed by research. For example, a study conducted by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) showed that between June 2012 and August 2013, lane-splitting was a factor in 17 percent of nearly 6,0000 motorcycle collisions in California.

    You must recognize that lane splitting is different from lane sharing. The latter describes a riding practice where 2 motorcycles occupy a single lane, moving simultaneously at similar speeds. This may actually increase riding safety as it makes it easier for drivers behind the riders to notice the taillights of both motorcycles.

    Is Lane Splitting Legal?

    Regardless of opinions and statistics on lane splitting, motorcyclists should always make sure to comply with appropriate traffic laws before engaging in any riding practice that may be deemed questionable. Therefore, it is important to recognize that lane splitting is made explicitly illegal in Tennessee.

    Please note the following statutes of the Tennessee Code:


    • “The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.” (Tennessee Code, Chapter 8, 55-8-182 [b])
    • “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.” (Tennessee Code, Chapter 8, 55-8-182 [c])


    In Kentucky, however, the legal status of lane splitting isn’t as clear. While the practice isn’t specifically made legal (as it is in California, for example), lane splitting is neither made explicitly illegal by Kentucky’s existing traffic laws either. 

    The different legal statuses of lane splitting in Tennessee and Kentucky have weighty consequences when determining fault in an accident. For instance, if a motorcyclist becomes injured in Tennessee while lane splitting, he or she may be barred from pursuing an injury claim and compensation. In addition, the individual may be held liable for property damage and injuries caused to the occupants of other vehicles involved.

    In Kentucky, though, this may not always be the case. In order to determine who was at fault in the accident, a thorough investigation of all the facts and circumstances of the crash will be neededeven if the rider was lane splitting. In any case, if you have doubts about whether you are in a position to pursue financial compensation after a motorcycle accident in which you have become injured, it is best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

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Tennessee Locations


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Clarksville, TN 37040

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Columbia, TN 38401

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Gallatin, TN 37066

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