Matthew Minner | August 18, 2022 | Motocycle Accident
For many Kentucky residents, motorcycle riding is an exciting pastime and an efficient mode of transportation. Not only is riding a bike thrilling, but it can cut down on gas costs, make parking easier, and even save time on your commute.
Recently, a riding technique called lane-splitting has gained national attention. For motorcyclists in Kentucky, it’s important to know the statistics, laws, and safety measures involving lane-splitting.
What Are Lane Splitting and Lane Filtering?
Lane-splitting is a defensive motorcycle riding technique that occurs when riders drive their motorcycle between two parallel lanes in moving traffic. According to studies, this practice allows motorcyclists to bypass congestion and helps reduce accidents and injury.
Lane-filtering is a related technique but occurs when traffic is stopped, such as at a red light or intersection.
Is Lane Splitting Safe?
Motorcycle safety advocates promote lane-splitting as a safe technique that helps decrease accidents by increasing rider visibility.
Vehicle injury statistics show that distracted drivers cause a great percentage of accidents and fatalities.
While motorcycles make up 3% of all registered vehicles, they account for a high rate of fatal motor vehicle crashes. A major contributor to these high numbers of fatalities are rear-impact collisions.
But according to traffic researchers at UC Berkeley, when practiced correctly, lane splitting reduces the likelihood of collisions by increasing rider visibility during traffic congestion.
According to the study, lane splitting is safest when:
- Practiced in traffic moving 50 mph or slower
- Riders don’t exceed the speed of nearby vehicles by more than 15 mph
Under these ideal conditions, motorcyclists can react to vehicles changing lanes, avoid distracted drivers, and prevent accidents.
Lane Splitting Accidents
Even when accidents occur during lane-splitting, the injuries are often less severe.
The Oregon Department of Transportation conducted a review of lane-splitting accident statistics and reported the following findings:
- 60% fewer fatalities
- 47% fewer head and brain injuries
- 9% fewer injuries to arms and legs
- 34% fewer torso injuries
While lane splitting may not solve every problem, studies increasingly suggest it can keep motorcyclists safe when they engage in safe riding and follow the posted speed limits.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in Kentucky?
Lane-splitting remains a gray area throughout much of the country, and each state regulates lane-splitting independently.
Currently, the only state that explicitly allows lane-splitting is California. Washington and Oregon are close to formally allowing the practice, and Utah recently legalized lane-filtering under certain conditions.
In Kentucky, there are no laws that formally allow or prohibit lane-splitting. In other words, lane-splitting is not yet part of the vehicle code and is neither legal nor illegal.
As a result of this, lane-splitting in Kentucky is generally up to law enforcement’s discretion. Under current Kentucky transit laws, lane-splitting could be cited as a reckless driving infraction, but this largely depends on the situation.
Motorcycle Accidents in Kentucky
Although lane-splitting statistics point to a reduced number of accidents and fatalities, motorcyclists are still exposed to serious injury.
Because motorcyclists are exposed to the elements, any collision involving a motorcycle can lead to a life-threatening injury. Some of the most common motorcycle-related injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
- Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
- Contusions and bruising
- Road rash
- Nerve damage
- Internal bleeding
While lane-splitting and filtering have been shown to reduce injuries, motorcyclists in Kentucky should proceed with caution. Until laws are in place to explicitly allow lane-splitting, riders still face financial penalties and points on their driving record for engaging in this practice.