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Is Lane Splitting Legal in New Mexico?

Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

Broken roadway rules are a main cause of automobile accidents in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of these rules is to stay in a single lane while operating a motor vehicle, except when passing or overtaking another vehicle. This rule prevents what is known as lane splitting – a controversial motorcycle maneuver that is currently illegal in New Mexico.

Lane Splitting in New Mexico - Legal or not?

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rides on the line between two lanes of same-direction traffic. The surrounding vehicles can be moving or stopped; either way, if the motorcyclist rides between two lanes, he or she is lane splitting. Lane splitting is not the same as lane sharing. Lane sharing is a legal practice in New Mexico where two motorcyclists ride abreast of one another in the same lane.

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

Lane splitting has been a source of great controversy among lawmakers in recent years. After California became the first state to legalize lane splitting, bills were submitted to lawmakers in many other states to do the same. However, most of these bills were rejected and did not become laws.

Advocates of lane splitting argue that it is safer for motorcyclists because it protects them from rear-end collisions. They also cite the benefit of reducing traffic in heavily congested areas by allowing motorcyclists to exit the road faster. Those who are against motorcyclists lane splitting believe that it increases the risk of sideswipe and lane-change accidents.

Whether or not lane splitting is safe is at the heart of the debate over making it legal. One study from Berkeley – the study that prompted California to change its law – says that lane splitting is relatively safe when done in traffic that is moving no faster than 50 miles per hour and if the motorcyclist does not exceed the speed of surrounding traffic by more than 15 miles per hour.

What Is New Mexico’s Lane-Splitting Law?

Lane splitting is not currently legal in New Mexico. New Mexico Code of Ordinances Section 10.04.086B states that no motorcycle may overtake or pass another vehicle in the same lane. It also states that no motorcyclist may operate between lanes of traffic or adjacent rows of stopped vehicles.

This law effectively prohibits motorcycle lane splitting by requiring motorcyclists to make the full use of a lane and remain in that lane, unless it is safe to pass another vehicle. If the motorcyclist does wish to pass, he or she must check to make sure it is safe to cross into the adjacent lane to overtake the other vehicle. The motorcyclist must use his or her turn signals while passing.

The only exception to New Mexico’s lane-splitting law is motorcycle police officers who must ride between lanes of traffic or lines of vehicles while performing their official duties. If anyone else lane splits, that person could face a traffic citation for a moving violation. This is penalized with a fine. If a motorcyclist illegally lane splits and this causes a motorcycle accident, the motorcyclist could also face civil liability for related damage.

What If Someone Causes an Accident While Lane Splitting?

Motorcyclists have a responsibility to obey New Mexico’s traffic laws while riding. If a motorcyclist fails to fulfill this responsibility and this causes an accident, the motorcyclist is guilty of negligence. Negligence can make a party liable, or financially responsible, for the injuries and losses associated with the preventable accident.

If a motorcyclist in New Mexico breaks the state’s lane-splitting law and illegally rides on the line between two lanes of traffic, this could be evidence of negligence. If this careless act causes or significantly contributes to a car accident, such as a sideswipe or lane-change accident, the motorcyclist’s insurance company could share liability for the crash.

New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that two parties can share fault for the same auto accident. In this scenario, the injured victim’s financial recovery will be reduced by his or her percentage of fault.

If you were recently injured in a lane-splitting accident in New Mexico, discuss your rights with a motorcycle accident attorney right away. An attorney in Albuquerque can help you understand your legal options as a motorcyclist or motorist.