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Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Illegal in Tennessee?


While you can see motorcyclists riding between lanes of traffic – also known as the practice of “lane splitting” – quite frequently in Tennessee, many drivers and bikers alike wonder, “Is lane splitting illegal in the state?

Under the TN Code § 55-8-182, lane splitting is illegal. The law says that:

  • Motorcyclists are not allowed to overtake and pass in a traffic lane occupied by another motor vehicle; and
  • Motorcyclists are not allowed to ride between lanes of traffic, adjacent lines, or rows of slowed or stopped vehicles.

Also, Tennessee law says that motorists on the road are entitled to the full use of their lanes. Therefore, lane splitting, which involves a motorcyclist riding in two lanes at the same time, violates the basic right of “full use.”

Can You Recover Damages in a Motorcycle Accident Involving Lane Splitting?

But does the fact that lane splitting is illegal in Tennessee mean that a motorcyclist would be barred from seeking compensation for their injury when involved in a collision while riding between lanes of traffic? Not necessarily.

Generally, a motorcyclist who was involved in a motorcycle crash while lane splitting would be presumed to be at fault for causing the collision. However, while motorcycle lane splitting is illegal in Tennessee, riding between lanes of traffic is not always the cause of the collision.

Whether or not a motorcyclist can recover damages after a motorcycle crash involving lane splitting depends on three factors:

  1. Was the motorcyclist actually lane splitting?
  2. Did the other driver’s negligence contribute to the accident?
  3. Was the accident related to lane splitting?

Was the Motorcyclist Actually Lane Splitting?

When establishing fault in a motorcycle accident involving lane splitting, it is important to determine whether the motorcyclist was actually splitting lanes at the time of the collision. The practice of riding between lanes of traffic may not be illegal if the motorcyclist is:

  • Changing lanes. The biker was changing lanes rather than riding between lanes of traffic.
  • Attempting to avoid a hazard or collision. The biker had to ride between lanes in order to avoid a hazard or collision.
  • Returning to their lane. Although the biker was splitting lanes before the crash, they returned to their lanes and were not violating any law at the time of the accident.

Did the Other Driver’s Negligence Contribute to the Accident?

Contrary to popular belief, motorcyclists are not always responsible for causing crashes on our roadways. In fact, a 2013 study found that car drivers are at fault in the vast majority of all motorcycle-car accidents.

Thus, if a motorcyclist who was lane splitting can prove that the other driver cut them off, merged without signaling their intention to do so, or violated any other traffic law, the driver may be deemed partially at fault for the crash.

Tennessee follows the rule of modified comparative negligence, which allows persons to seek compensation as long as they are 50% or less at fault. An injured party can recover damages proportionally to your percentage of fault.

You may want to contact a Nashville motorcycle accident lawyer to help you demonstrate proof that the other driver’s negligence contributed to the accident despite the fact that you were lane splitting at the time of the collision.

Was the Accident Related to Lane Splitting?

Many motorcycle collisions involving lane splitting have nothing to do with the fact that the motorcyclist was riding between lanes at the time of the accident. However, given the widespread bias against motorcyclists in the court system, a motorcyclist would need a skilled car accident attorney on their side to prove that the accident is unrelated to lane splitting.

Contact Nashville motorcycle accident attorney Colin Brett Calhoun at Calhoun Law, PLC, to investigate your collision and determine liability. Call at 615-375-4773 to get a case review.



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