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Safety Tip: Motorcycle Lane-Splitting, White-Lining, and Filtering Forward is Illegal in Indiana

This week, a motorcyclist was killed on I-69 near Fort Wayne, Indiana, when he attempted to pass two cars by traveling in the middle of the two lanes. This practice is known as "lane-splitting," "filtering forward," or "white lining." It occurs when a biker attempts to pass between the car and the breakdown lane or shoulder.

In the United States, lane splitting is only legal in the state of California (mostly because of California's clogged streets and traffic issues). In all other 49 states, the maneuver is illegal, or has no specific legislation that speaks to its legality.

There are two schools of thought on lane-splitting. Some think that it actually decreases traffic and makes motorcycle accidents less frequent - the Hurt Report, published in 1981, used data collected in the 1970s to show that white lining and lane splitting reduced the number of read-end crashes. Also, data from the United States Department of Transportation cites that read-end crashes are 30% lower in California.

However, other data suggests that the move is very dangerous and even often deadly. While lane splitting during stop-and-go traffic may help congestion, lane sharing at higher speeds is a very risky maneuver that increases blind spots and leaves little room for error. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, there were 397 motorcyclist injuries and 9,472 incidents involving unsafe lane changes associated with lane-splitting in 2005 alone. 

According to deputies with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, 49-year-old Bernard T. Leonelli of Kendalville was riding a Harley-Davidson south along Interstate 69. Around 7:25 p.m., Mr. Leonelli came upon a slower-moving Chevrolet Blazer sport-utility vehicle, operated by 45-year-old Fort Wayne resident Mary M. Schweyer.

Investigators say Mr. Leonelli attempted to pass between the Blazer and another vehicle, but made contact with the SUV, throwing him from his bike. Paramedics airlifted Mr. Leonelli to Parkview Regional Medical Center, but doctors were unable to save him.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Leonelli attended Long Island, New York's Hofstra University and Cleveland, Ohio's Case Western Reserve University before going on to a post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Chicago. He owned and operated his own practice, based in Hobart.

Indiana has no specific legislation addressing the maneuver; however, it is dangerous and can have fatal consequences.  And while there may not be legislation regarding lane-splitting, if you're in an accident while performing such a maneuver, the likelihood of you being placed at fault will increase exponentially. 

Motorcycles already face more safety issues on the road than cars do - if you ride one, be sure to follow all laws and safety precautions to prevent accidents and injuries.

The law firm of Keller & Keller are experts in Indiana motorcycle injury law. Contact our officers for a free consultation today.

Randall L. Juergensen
Partner at Keller & Keller
• Regarding lane splitting, the statute reads: “A motorcycle is entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and a vehicle may not be driven or operated in a manner that deprives another vehicle of the full use of a traffic lane.”
by jason July 9, 2014 at 06:59 PM
Specifically in the state of Indiana, is filtering forward at a stop light legal, illegal or not mentioned?
by Brian November 7, 2013 at 03:01 PM
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