What Is Ohio’s Lane Splitting Law for Motorcyclists?

by NPHM | June 1st, 2020

Ohio law doesn’t specifically ban or condone lane splitting or lane filtering by motorcyclists. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no risk of a ticket involved. Motorcyclists who lane-split may be at risk of receiving citations for other related offenses, such as improper lane changes or failure to maintain a lane.

In addition, Ohio law says that motorcyclists must exercise due care when passing stopped vehicles. The poorly defined legality of lane splitting and filtering in Ohio mean that motorcyclists must use their best judgment unless or until the law changes, which may be sooner than you think. Both California and Utah have legalized lane splitting, while several other states are considering legislation related to it.

What Is Lane Splitting, and Why Is it Controversial?

Lane splitting is a controversial topic due to its reputation for both improving and reducing motorcyclists’ safety, depending on who you ask. When motorcyclists split lanes, they ride down the middle of a lane between vehicles and lanes of traffic. This is typically only done when traffic is moving slowly, such as in traffic jams or in low-speed areas. When motorcyclists split lanes at stopped intersections, it’s called lane filtering.

The riding technique is common in many parts of the world, but less often seen in America. However, many motorcyclists believe it’s safer for riders, as riding or idling between vehicles renders them less vulnerable to rear-end accidents.

On the other hand, riders who straddle lanes between vehicles may be injured if drivers or passengers open their doors or suddenly change lanes in their direction. In addition, motorcyclists who split lanes may be difficult for drivers in tractor-trailers and other large vehicles to see, as they may ride directly in their blind spots.

Is Lane Splitting Really Safer?

An in-depth and well-regarded study conducted on motorcycle safety called the Hurt Report seemed to indicate that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by reducing the risk of rear-end crashes. However, Professor Harry Hurt, the author of the study, later said that there was no actual research or factual data supporting this theory.

In California, a state where lane splitting is legal, rear-end motorcycle collisions are 30% lower than they are in Florida and Texas, states with similar weather and large riding populations but no laws permitting lane splitting.

A study conducted in May 2015 by researchers at UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center discovered that 4.6% of lane-splitting motorcyclists are rear-ended compared to 6 percent of non-lane-splitting riders. In addition, they were 8% less likely to suffer head injuries, 10% less likely to suffer torso injuries, and 1.8% less likely to die in accidents.

Lane Splitting Can Make the Insurance Company Even More Biased Against You

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Ohio motorcycle accident lawyers have learned an important lesson in our many years of representing injured riders: insurance companies almost always believe that motorcyclists are to blame for their own crashes. Even in cases where it’s clear the other drivers weren’t paying attention, riders often are assigned liability and denied settlements.

Although the legal status of lane splitting in Ohio is in a gray area, doing so and then being involved in a crash can hurt your chances of getting the money you deserve. As a motorcyclist, you already face an uphill battle if you’re injured in an accident. The last thing you should do is give the insurance adjuster even more ammo to use against you if you decide to file a compensation claim.

How to Reduce Your Risks without Lane Splitting

If you don’t want to risk getting a citation, but still want to reduce your risks of a rear-end crash on your motorcycle, the following tips can help you stay safe:

  • Make yourself as visible as possible—Drivers aren’t always on the lookout for motorcyclists. And when they don’t look, riders are at risk of rear-end crashes. Avoiding a rear-end crash is all about being seen by the driver behind you, and that means being as visible as possible. Wear brightly colored clothing, a brightly colored helmet, and ensure that your brake lights and taillights are in good working condition.
  • Change lanes if you’re being tailgated—Drivers that follow you too closely in moving traffic may take too long to brake in slowed traffic or at intersections. If a driver is too close to your rear tire, change lanes and let them pass.
  • Check your rear-view mirrors—When you’re riding, it’s important to always be aware of the entire space around your motorcycle, including the space behind it. It’s especially vital when you’re stopped at a red light. Check your mirrors frequently, and be prepared to perform an evasive maneuver if a vehicle approaches you from behind and the driver doesn’t see you.

We’re Here to Help After Motorcycle Crashes

Riding a motorcycle is risky. Even the safest riders who wear all the gear, all the time, are potentially risking their lives every time they get on their bikes. When riders are hurt in crashes that aren’t their fault, they often suffer serious, debilitating injuries that put them out of work. We believe that those riders deserve maximum compensation, but it doesn’t always work out that way when insurance companies get involved.

If you or someone you love is hurt in a motorcycle crash, we want to help. We have decades of experience upholding motorcyclists’ rights against biased insurance companies, and we want to put that experience to work for you, too. Contact us today by calling 216-621-2300 for a free consultation.