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Is lane splitting legal in PA?

Is lane splitting legal in Pennsylvania? We answer that question and everything else you need to know about lane splitting in PA.

evident Editorial Team
September 26, 2023
Pittsburgh skyline, lane splitting PA

A motorcycle maneuver that often sparks both confusion and controversy is "lane splitting."  A question that often comes up: "Is lane splitting legal in PA?"

This article will explain what lane splitting is, whether it’s legal in Pennsylvania, and how lane splitting impacts fault in the event of a motorcycle accident. 

To start let’s begin by defining what lane splitting is. 

Key Takeaways

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is a maneuver in which a motorcyclist navigates between lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction. 

Motorcycle lane splitting is sometimes confused, though, with lane filtering and lane sharing, both of which are separate maneuvers. 

Lane filtering describes a motorcyclist moving between traffic at traffic lights or other scenarios that involve slow-moving traffic or even stopped traffic. Lane sharing, meanwhile, refers to two motorcycles riding side by side within the same lane. 

Though the terms lane splitting and lane filtering are sometimes used interchangeably, they are separate maneuvers and are sometimes treated differently under state laws.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in Pennsylvania?

So, can motorcycles split lanes in PA? No, lane splitting in Pennsylvania is not allowed.

California is the only state that has thus far legalized lane splitting. A handful of states have legalized lane filtering. Those states are Arizona, Montana, and Utah. 

Note that states sometimes change their laws, and some states have revisited lane splitting laws in recent years. (For instance, Colorado is considering a law that would take a look at the viability of a rule change, and in 2022 Arizona passed a law legalizing lane filtering). 

But as of now, lane splitting in Pennsylvania is not allowed.

Is Lane Splitting Dangerous?

Whether lane splitting is dangerous tends to draw mixed responses, in part because the answer can depend on multiple factors. For example, whether lane splitting is dangerous depends on factors including the motorcyclist’s experience, the awareness of other drivers on the road, and traffic conditions at the time of the maneuver. 

Research conducted by U.C. Berkeley found that, when done responsibly, lane splitting can be relatively safe. Even so, the risks of lane splitting increase significantly when motorcycle riders split lanes at high speeds or with a bigger speed differential relative to surrounding traffic. 

motorcycle, accident, road

Motorcyclists also have to contend with drivers who do not expect a motorcycle to pass them by splitting lanes. Many car drivers, including in Pennsylvania, are unaware of the practice and could be taken by surprise or in a poor position to accommodate the maneuver if they don’t see the motorcycle coming.

The risk of a collision is also increased by the limited space in which lane splitting motorcyclists have to navigate. So, while lane splitting can decrease the risk to motorcyclists of rear-end collisions, it can introduce new dangers that riders need to be ready for. 

And remember, the safety or danger involved in lane splitting is largely an academic debate in Pennsylvania, given that Pennsylvania law prohibits the maneuver.

Who is at fault in a lane splitting accident in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law establishes what is called a comparative negligence system for determining fault. This means that a person can recover damages for an accident as long as they are less than 50% responsible for the accident. 

​​A motorcyclist involved in a lane splitting accident in Pennsylvania will generally bear some of the blame since the maneuver is illegal. That said, a motorcyclist may be able to recover damages for an accident if they were less negligent than the other driver.

So if a lane splitting motorcyclist is found partly at fault for an accident, they may still be able to recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, though their recovery may be reduced by their percentage of fault. 

Consider speaking with a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer or motorcycle accident lawyer if you have questions about the specifics of a case or have been in an accident involving lane splitting.

FAQs About Lane Splitting in PA

What states in the US allow lane splitting?

California is the only state in the US that explicitly allows lane splitting. 

Some states, including Arizona, Utah, and Montana, allow lane filtering in certain conditions, but California is the only state in which lane splitting is legal.

Can you lane split in Philadelphia?

No, lane splitting is not allowed in Philadelphia, similar to its treatment in the rest of Pennsylvania.

Why is lane splitting bad?

Lane splitting can be a dangerous maneuver, particularly by careless or inexperienced riders. And in states where drivers don’t expect motorcycles to split lanes–which is all states but California–other vehicles on the road may be caught unaware if they don’t see a lane splitter coming.

At the same time, advocates of lane splitting argue that it can reduce traffic congestion as well as the risk of rear-end collisions, and some research has shown that it can be done relatively safely.

That said, lane splitting remains controversial and is still illegal in all states besides California. 

The Final Word on Lane Splitting in Pennsylvania

So, is lane splitting legal in PA? No, lane splitting is not legal in Pennsylvania.

Laws can change, so while lane splitting is not currently allowed, it's essential to stay up to date. Currently, though, the maneuver is not allowed in Pennsylvania.