Lane Splitting vs Lane Weaving in Washington

Motorcyclists in the state of Washington will understand what lane splitting and lane weaving are. These are two separate types of maneuvers that motorcyclists can perform on the roadway. However, both of these maneuvers are illegal in Washington. Here, we want to more thoroughly define lane splitting and lane weaving.

Understanding Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is a technique that is legally allowed in a few states throughout the country but not Washington. Lane splitting involves motorcyclists riding down the white center line of two lanes of traffic going in the same direction, basically creating their own center lane where one does not exist. In states where lane splitting is legal, there are specific guidelines developed by legislators or police that discuss how this practice should be carried out.

However, RCW 46.61.608 very specifically says that “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”

Lane splitting is not legal in Washington, and there have been no serious discussions in the legislature during the last three years to change the law. An effort was made to allow lane splitting in 2019, but the bill did not pass.

Understanding Lane Weaving

Also known as lane filtering, this is not the same thing as lane splitting. Lane weaving refers to motorcyclists riding between stationary cars in order to get into a safer or better position at the front of stopped traffic, usually at a stoplight. Some people consider lane weaving to also include the practice of moving between slow-moving cars to get a better position in traffic, but this would most likely fall under the umbrella of lane splitting.

Just like lane splitting, lane weaving is also not legal in the state of Washington.

Arguments for Lane Splitting

A study conducted by the University of California Berkeley has indicated that lane splitting can be safe if done properly by the motorcyclist. Specifically, the study found that lane splitting was fairly safe if done in traffic moving at less than 50 mph and so long as the motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of the surrounding vehicles by more than 15 mph.

The study found that motorcyclists who lane split were less likely to suffer from head injuries, torso injuries, and fatal injuries.

Lane splitting can help motorcyclists avoid road hazards and avoid getting themselves into situations where they could easily be rear-ended by other drivers. Additionally, lane splitting can allow motorcyclists to obtain the best roadway position so they are more visible to other drivers around them. Since motorcycle accidents can cause severe bodily injuries, it is important that motorists maintain the best possible view of the road.

Follow Washington Traffic Laws

Since lane splitting and lane weaving are currently not legal in Washington, we encourage all motorcyclists to follow the law and operate their motorcycles safely. If you wish to initiate change concerning motorcycle laws, we encourage you to reach out to your legislator and discuss the possibility of resurrecting conversation surrounding these practices. As always, we encourage all motorcyclists to practice defensive driving and be aware of their surroundings to help avoid significant injuries on the roadway.