Is Lane Splitting Legal In Oregon?

If you own a motorcycle in Oregon, then your number one priority is probably safety. Motorcyclists enjoy riding their vehicles throughout this state. Unfortunately, the Oregon Department of Transportation states that there were more than 1,000 motorcycle crash injuries and 85 motorcycle crash fatalities reported during the latest year of data available. In nearby California, the practice of lane splitting is legal, and some studies show that this can increase motorcycle safety on the roadway. Here, we want to explore the practice of lane splitting and discuss whether or not this is legal in Oregon.

What is lane splitting?

Lane splitting is often also referred to as “white lining.” If you have ever seen a motorcyclist riding down the middle of rows of cars driving in the same direction on the white center line, then you have seen lane splitting. Lane splitting generally occurs when traffic is moving slowly or is at a standstill. The goal of a lane-splitting motorcyclist is to get to the front of traffic.

Passenger vehicle drivers may be thinking, “We all want to get to the front of the line, so why is it fair for a motorcyclist to do so in this manner?”

The answer lies in safety. Studies from U.C. Berkley indicate that lane splitting can actually increase motorcyclist safety by reducing the chance that a motorcyclist will be rear-ended in stop and go traffic. Researchers say that lane splitting is generally safe if it occurs in traffic moving slower than 50 mph and so long as the motorcyclist does not travel more than 15 mph faster than surrounding traffic.

You may also hear lane splitting referred to as lane filtering, but that is not exactly the same thing. When a motorcyclist is lane filtering, this means that they are continually moving in front of vehicles on the roadway traveling in the same direction they are going in an effort to get to the front of the line of traffic. In general, lane filtering accomplishes the same goal as lane splitting – it allows the motorcyclist to get to the front of the line and be, in theory, safer and at less risk of sustaining a rear-end accident in stop and go traffic.

Why is this not legal in Oregon?

This motorcycle driving practice is certainly controversial and is only legal in California. Lane splitting is not legal in Oregon. Lane splitting has been debated in Oregon, and there was even a recent bill proposed in the Oregon legislature that passed a preliminary hearing in 2019. However, there is no clear path forward for a lane splitting bill to become law in this state. There does not seem to be any widespread support in the Oregon Senate or House for a lane splitting law.

Are there other Oregon motorcycle laws you need to know about?

Motorcycles are considered vehicles in the state of Oregon, and motorcyclists must follow all traffic laws, just like any other passenger vehicle driver. Motorcyclists must carry separate motorcycle insurance to remain legal on the roadway, and all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet that is DOT-compliant.

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