If you are a motorcyclist in Colorado, then you already know many of the common dangers involved with riding. Lane splitting is just one of the many ways in which careless drivers endanger motorcyclists and their passengers. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident due to a lane-splitting motorist, you may have a right to seek financial compensation for your injuries. Here is what you should know about these types of crashes:
What Is Lane Splitting?
Motorcycles take up less room in the lane than a regular passenger vehicle. However, when you ride a motorcycle on the roadway, you are entitled to all the same rights as those who are in cars and trucks, including use of the full lane. Still, other drivers may not always understand or respect your rights.
Lane splitting occurs when two vehicles try to share the same lane of travel. This can happen due to:
- Passing – When drivers become impatient, they may choose to pass a motorcycle by passing within the same lane rather than changing lanes and making a correct pass. By operating side-by-side with a motorcycle in the same lane, the driver is “splitting” the lane of travel. Likewise, a motorcyclist stopped in heavy traffic might decide to pass between cars to keep moving. Either scenario can be dangerous.
- Inattention – Sometimes, drivers split the lane simply because they are not paying attention. This can happen when a driver is texting or otherwise distracted. They may fail to recognize the smaller vehicle travelling in the front or to the side.
- Lack of knowledge – Some drivers think that motorcycles are the same as bicycles. Whether this is due to a lack of education and knowledge or a subconscious disregard, some drivers may drive next to a motorcycle in the same lane, incorrectly assuming the bike must stay to the shoulder like a pedestrian or bicycle. This is not acceptable.
Is Lane Splitting Dangerous?
Splitting or sharing a lane is often dangerous and can lead to crashes and even fatalities. As the Colorado Department of Transportation explains, it is unlawful for two vehicles to share a lane with each other. However, two motorcycles can share a lane of travel. In fact, when motorcyclists do share a lane, it can help to prevent accidents in some ways. Together, the motorcycles take up more space and make it harder for other drivers to try to split the lane.
When a car shares a lane with a motorcycle, it can lead to miscommunications, abrupt turns and side-swipe accidents. When motorcyclists attempt to pass between cars, a driver could make a quick turn to the left or right, clipping or colliding with the motorcycle.
Is Lane Splitting Legal in Colorado?
Lane splitting is, in fact, illegal in Colorado. In 2016, the Colorado legislature attempted to pass HB 16-1205, which would have legalized lane splitting in limited situations. The law would have allowed motorcycles to pass between cars or pass on the right in traffic moving at less than 5 mph under the following conditions:
- All vehicles are traveling the same direction at speeds of 5 mph or less
- The motorcycle would stay below 15 mph
- The motorcycle would not go more than 10 mph faster than any car it passed.
Still, unlike some states that have legalized this practice, it remains unlawful to split a lane in Colorado (except when the splitting involves two motorcycles).
What Are the Penalties for Lane Splitting in Colorado?
Motorcycle riders who are cited for lane splitting in Colorado commit a Class A traffic infraction, which is punishable by a fine. These fines can range from about $15 to $100. They can also get points on their driving records. If you get too many points, you could face a license suspension.
If you are injured while attempting to illegally overtake another vehicle within the same lane, the other driver’s insurance company will likely try to argue that you should not be compensated for injuries. This is a very serious consideration, because even a minor impact could result in expensive medical treatment. It could also put you out of work for weeks or months while you recover from your injuries.
Colorado law also allows for a reduction in your potential compensation if you share responsibility for your injuries. For this reason, you should never try to split lanes with a car. If a car attempts to split your lane, you should slow down and let it pass. Additionally, you should:
- Ride in groups when possible.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Always ride sober.
- Never attempt to use a phone or text while riding.
- Wear highly visible clothing.
- Wear non-synthetic and appropriate apparel.
- Never challenge another vehicle or engage in “road rage.”
How to Pursue Compensation After a Colorado Motorcycle Accident
If you are injured because another driver disregards your rights and causes a motorcycle crash, then you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver. You should immediately seek medical attention and obtain any paperwork which the police give you. Then, be sure to call an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer in Colorado.
The Sawaya Law Firm focuses on helping injured motorcyclists and their passengers to pursue the money they deserve, get back on the road and move on with their lives after serious injuries. We never charge our clients big retainers or upfront fees, and our initial consultations are always free.
We also advance all of the necessary costs of pursuing a case. We will recover these costs only if we are successful in obtaining compensation for your injuries. So, if you have been injured or lost a loved one in a serious motorcycle accident, don’t take chances. Contact us today to discuss your case.