Lane splitting, a controversial practice that some motorcyclists advocate for, is not legal in SC.

Lane filtering, a more common-sense approach that would make motorcyclists safer and reduce traffic jams, is also illegal in our state.

Let’s talk about lane splitting in SC – below we will discuss:

  • What are lane splitting, lane filtering, and lane sharing,
  • Why lane filtering should be legal in SC,
  • Three laws that endanger motorcycle riders, and
  • How lane splitting can affect your motorcycle collision case in SC.

Lane Splitting and Lane Filtering are Illegal in SC

Both lane splitting and lane filtering are illegal in SC, but lane sharing is permitted.

Although SC law does not explicitly use the terms “lane splitting” or “lane filtering,” SC Code Section 56-5-3640 says:

(a) All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such a manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.

(b) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.

(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic, or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.

(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.

Subsection (a) makes it clear that motorcyclists are entitled to the use of a full lane and that it is illegal for any other motor vehicle to move into their space. This does not apply to two motorcycles, however – the law also makes it clear that it is legal for two motorcycles to ride abreast.

Subsections (b) and (c) prohibit both lane splitting and lane filtering by making it illegal for a motorcycle to ride or to pass other vehicles:

  • In the same lane occupied by another vehicle,
  • Between lanes of traffic, or
  • Between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane-splitting, or white-lining, is where a motorcyclist moves between two lanes of traffic at a higher speed than the flow of traffic, passing other vehicles along the white line. It is currently illegal in all states except California.

What is Lane Filtering?

Lane filtering is not the same thing as lane splitting. Lane filtering is where a motorcyclist moves slowly through slow-moving or stopped traffic when traffic is congested during a traffic jam, at a stoplight, or whenever traffic is stopped on the highway.

Although it makes sense to allow lane filtering in heavy traffic even if the law does not allow lane splitting at high speeds, lane filtering is also illegal in SC.

What is Lane Sharing?

Lane sharing is where two motorcyclists ride abreast in the same lane, either alongside one another or in a staggered formation.

Why Lane Splitting, or at Least Lane Filtering, Should be Legal

The terms “lane splitting” and “lane filtering” are often used interchangeably, but most sources agree that allowing motorcyclists to pass between lanes when traffic is stopped or moving slowly increases motorcycle safety and is just common sense.

For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s Motorcycle Safety Foundation notes that lane splitting reduces the likelihood of crashes and recommends further study:

A motorcycle’s narrow width can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap. This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind. There is evidence (Hurt, 1981) that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.

A study conducted by UC Berkeley transportation researchers also found that lane splitting is relatively safe when traffic is moving at 50 mph or less and when motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by 15 mph:

An analysis conducted by researchers from UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) found that lane-splitting is relatively safe if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph…

Also compared with other motorcyclists involved in a collision, lane-splitting riders were less likely to suffer head injury (9 percent versus 17 percent), torso injury (19 percent versus 29 percent) and fatal injury (1.2 percent versus 3 percent).

Laws that Endanger Motorcycle Riders

Check out this YouTube video where FortNine demonstrates three laws that endanger motorcycle riders, including mandatory anti-lock brakes and prohibitions on lane-filtering. As he says, “perhaps it’s unsurprising that people who drive boxes can’t think outside of them:”

How Does Lane Splitting Affect Your Motorcycle Collision Case?

Because lane splitting or lane filtering is illegal in SC, doing it may be considered “per se negligence” – when a traffic law is violated, the person is automatically considered negligent.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a case, however. Depending on the facts of your case and what the other driver did, you may be able to recover if the other driver was more negligent than you.

For example, if you are safely splitting traffic that is stopped or that is traveling at a low rate of speed, and a driver hits your bike in a fit of road rage, you should be able to sue and get compensation for the damage that they caused…

SC follows a “modified comparative negligence rule” – if you are more than 50% at fault in a collision, you recover nothing. If a jury finds that you are 50% or less at fault in the collision, you can still recover damages, but your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you by the jury.

Questions About Lane Splitting/ Motorcycle Laws in SC?

The motorcycle crash attorneys at the Boles Law Firm can help you to investigate your crash, gather the evidence you will need in court, negotiate with the insurance companies, and recover the maximum compensation that you are entitled to for your injuries.

Call us at 843-576-5775 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation at our North Charleston or Walterboro offices or send us a message through our website.

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