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Is Lane Splitting Legal In Illinois?

Is lane splitting legal in Illinois? We answer that question and everything else you need to know about lane splitting in the state.

evident Editorial Team
August 30, 2023
Chicago, road, cars

Motorcycle riders love the sense of freedom they enjoy on the road. But one practice that often sparks controversy is "lane splitting."  One question that often arises: "Is lane splitting legal in Illinois?"

In this article, we'll discuss:

  • What lane splitting is
  • Whether it's legal in Illinois
  • What the penalty is in Illinois for splitting lanes
  • Who is at fault for a lane splitting accident in the state
  • And other lane splitting issues that frequently come up

To begin, let's start with the definition of lane splitting as a maneuver.

Key Takeaways

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is a maneuver in which a motorcycle rider navigates between two lanes of cars traveling in the same direction. Splitting lanes allows motorcycles to move efficiently through congested traffic rather than staying in the same lane.

Lane splitting sometimes gets confused with two related but different maneuvers: lane filtering and lane sharing. Lane filtering refers to motorcycles moving between traffic at traffic lights or situations involving slow traffic or even stopped traffic. While some people refer to lane splitting and lane filtering interchangeably, they are different maneuvers and are treated differently under some states’ laws.

Lane sharing, meanwhile, refers to more than one motorcycle riding side by side within a lane. Motorcyclists sometimes do this to make themselves more visible to other vehicles on the road.

Is lane splitting safe?

Although lane splitting can enable riders to navigate more efficiently through congested traffic, it can be controversial due to safety concerns and confusion over lane splitting laws. Some view it as a dangerous maneuver that increases the risk of collisions, while many motorcyclists argue it can reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for motorcyclists by reducing the chances of getting rear-ended in heavy traffic.

Whether or not lane splitting is safe can depend on numerous factors, including the motorcyclist’s skill, the awareness of nearby drivers, and the traffic conditions. 

The University of California Berkeley published research that found that motorcycle lane splitting can be relatively safe when riders perform the maneuver responsibly. The risks increase, however, when riders split lanes at higher speeds or with a larger speed differential relative to the surrounding traffic.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in Illinois?

The short answer to the question, "Is lane splitting legal in Illinois?" is no. As of the time of writing, lane splitting is illegal in Illinois.

Thus far, the only state with a lane splitting law that explicitly legalizes the maneuver is California. And while some states do not specifically address lane splitting, Illinois does, and the relevant Illinois law states: "The driver of a 2 wheeled vehicle may not, in passing upon the left of any vehicle proceeding in the same direction, pass upon the right of any vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless there is an unobstructed lane of traffic available to permit such passing maneuver safely."

There have been a handful of states to legalize lane filtering, including Arizona, California, Montana, and Utah. But Illinois is not one of those states, so lane filtering is also illegal in Illinois. 

Keep in mind that state laws sometimes change, and some states have revisited their lane splitting or lane filtering laws in recent years. For instance, Colorado is considering a law to study the viability of lane splitting, and Arizona's law legalizing lane filtering was passed just recently in 2022.

But for now, lane splitting and lane filtering are both illegal under Illinois law.

What is the Penalty for Lane Splitting in Illinois?

The penalty for lane splitting in Illinois typically involves fines and having points added to your driving record. 

Lane splitting violations are often considered petty traffic violations which can result in a fine of up to $1,000. But if the maneuver leads to a more serious citation, it could involve a fine of up to $2,500 and even jail time. 

gavel, dollar sign

Who is At Fault in a Lane Splitting Accident in Illinois?

Determining who is at fault in a lane splitting motorcycle accident can be complicated and often depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident. But given that lane splitting is illegal in Illinois, motorcyclists who lane split in Illinois will often be found to share fault in the event of a collision.

That said, Illinois recognizes contributory negligence, or “contributory fault,” which means that a motorcycle rider may be able to recover compensation if they are found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident. (In other words, if the motorcycle rider is determined to be less at fault than the other driver). 

But again, determining fault in a motorcycle crash can be complex, and each case is unique. Consulting with a motorcycle accident attorney or a personal injury attorney is a good idea if you're involved in a lane splitting accident.

FAQs About Lane Splitting in Illinois

What is the difference between lane splitting and filtering?

The difference between lane splitting and lane filtering often has to do with the traffic conditions when the maneuver is performed. 

Lane splitting typically refers to riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic that are moving at higher speeds. Lane filtering, on the other hand, usually refers to a motorcycle riding between two slow-moving traffic or stopped vehicles, such as at a stoplight. 

While the two maneuvers sound similar, they are different and are sometimes treated differently under state laws.

Is lane filtering illegal in Illinois?

Yes, lane filtering is also illegal in Illinois. Unlike lane splitting, a handful of states besides California have legalized lane filtering. (Those states are Arizona, Montana, and Utah). 

Illinois, however, is not among those states and the maneuver is illegal under current traffic laws. 

The Final Word on Lane Splitting in Illinois

So, is lane splitting legal in Illinois? No, Illinois law does not permit lane splitting.

While the practice is not allowed currently, Illinois lane splitting laws could change and it's essential to stay up to date. And remember that laws can vary from state to state, so be sure to check the laws where you plan on riding if you leave the state.