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Is Lane Splitting Illegal in Colorado?

Posted on April 28, 2021 in

There are plenty of motorcycle enthusiasts in the state of Colorado. In general, the motorcyclists here follow the laws just like every other driver on the roadway. However, it is important for motorcyclists to know every single law related to the safe operation of these vehicles, including what Colorado law says about lane splitting.

Is lane splitting legal in Colorado?

The practice of lane splitting is popular, and it is even legal in some areas in the United States. However, lane splitting is not legal in Colorado. Here, we want to define lane splitting and talk about why it is not legal here (and whether it is even safe).

What is Lane Splitting?

Most people have seen lane splitting before, but they may not have been able to put a name on what they saw. Lane splitting is the practice of a motorcycle traveling down the center dotted line between two lanes of traffic that are going in the same direction. Usually, lane splitting occurs when traffic is moving very slowly or when it is at a standstill. In general, motorcyclists practice lane splitting so they can get out of the congestion of sitting in traffic. However, there are also safety reasons behind lane splitting that we will discuss in a moment.

Lane Splitting: Not Legal in Colorado

When we turn to information available from the Colorado Department of Transportation, we can see that lane splitting is not legal in this state. Specifically, the DOT website says that “passing or overtaking a vehicle in the same lane is illegal in Colorado; no lane sharing or splitting with cars.”

Currently, California is the only state in the country where lane splitting is legal. Drivers in Colorado who practice lane splitting could be pulled over by police officers and issued a citation for reckless driving for failing to follow traffic laws.

There are several risks involved in lane splitting, particularly in places where other motorists are not aware that this type of activity could occur. Some of the dangers that motorcyclists face if they choose to lane split include the following:

  • Car doors opening into their paths
  • Hands or other objects coming out of vehicle windows
  • Vehicles changing lanes unexpectedly
  • Vehicles turning unexpectedly
  • Other motorists becoming angry and causing problems for the motorcyclist

Motorcyclists could sustain significant injuries if an accident occurs while they are lane splitting. It is not uncommon for motorcyclists to sustain the following types of injuries in these cases:

  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Severe lacerations or road rash
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Concussions
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Other severe neck or back injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Significant scarring and disfigurement

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

There has been significant debate about whether or not lane splitting is a safe practice. A study published by U.C. Berkley does seem to indicate that lane splitting increases motorcyclist safety. According to the study, lane splitting increases safety by reducing the chances that a motorcyclist will be rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic. However, this research does come with a warning – lane splitting is only safe when it occurs in traffic moving slower than 50 mph and as long as the motorcyclist does not go more than 15 mph faster than the surrounding traffic.

Call us today to speak with an experienced Denver motorcycle accident attorney.