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Can You Lane Split in Illinois?

Posted on July 14, 2023

If you have ever seen a motorcyclist go past your window down the center of two lanes heading in the same direction, then you have seen lane splitting.

Lane splitting is popular amongst motorcyclists and even legal in some areas around the country. However, Illinois does not allow lane splitting for motorcyclists. Here, we want to discuss Illinois-specific laws related to lane splitting and examine the merits of this practice according to various studies. Being tactically prepared is crucial to steer clear of motorcycle accidents.

Understanding Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist passes between two moving motor vehicles that are going in the same direction. Usually, this means that the motorcyclist creates their own lane down the center line of two lanes going in the same direction.

The practice of lane splitting is prohibited under Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-703.

California was, for decades, the only state that allowed lane splitting. In fact, the first comprehensive study related to lane splitting came out of California through UC Berkley. An analysis conducted by researchers at the university’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) determined that lane splitting was generally safe if it was done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less and as long as a motorcyclist did not exceed the speed of other vehicles around them by more than 15 mph.

However, because lane splitting is not legal in Illinois, this maneuver should not be practiced by any motorcyclist within the state. Even if individuals think that they can do it safely, this type of driving must be avoided. Other drivers throughout the state do not expect this type of action from a motorcyclist, and it will likely catch other motorists off guard. This could lead to major collisions, particularly if other motorists panic when a motorcyclist rides past them.

Motorcycle riders in Illinois are allowed to ride side by side. In these situations, motorcycle riders are allowed to pass other motorcyclists while sticking to the original lane.

Failure to abide by Illinois law could lead to a motorcyclist being stopped by police and charged with a Class A misdemeanor offense. This charge will apply so long as the offense did not lead to bodily injury. Under state law, a Class A misdemeanor could result in up to one year in jail, probation, or a fine of up to $2,500.

If a motorcycle rider’s lane splitting led to bodily injuries, the charge will increase to a Class C felony, which will almost certainly carry a jail term upon conviction.

What the American Motorcyclist Association Says

The American Motorcyclist Association does endorse lane splitting but only issued this endorsement after viewing the long-term success of the practice in California along with the UC Berkley study mentioned above. However, the AMA states that they place significant emphasis on motorcycle operator and passenger safety. They endorse rider responsibility and any actions that help make the roadway safer for motorcyclists, but they were cautious about issuing a blanket endorsement of lane splitting practices.

Working With an Attorney

If you or somebody you care about has been injured as a result of another driver’s action on the roadway, we encourage you to reach out to a Chicago personal injury attorney today. Whether you are a motorcyclist or another type of motorist, you deserve compensation if your injuries were caused by the actions of another party.