What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting and is it Legal in Nevada?

by Gina Corena

posted in Las Vegas Motorcycle Accident Attorney on August 23, 2022

What is Motorcycle Lane Splitting and is it Legal in Nevada?

Although virtually all states adhere to extraordinarily similar standards for operating motor vehicles with four or more wheels, motorcyclists often face different laws when entering different states. One controversial subject of motorcycle operations is the use of the lane-splitting technique. Motorcyclists should understand the concept of lane-splitting and its current legal status in the State of Nevada.

What is Lane-Splitting?

Lane-splitting is the act of a two-wheeled motor vehicle, usually a motorcycle or other motorized bicycle, driving between lanes of traffic on the lines of a road. Virtually all side streets and highways have white lines used as a boundary to indicate the division between multiple lanes of traffic.

When traffic has slowed or come to a complete stop on a muti-laned street or highway, most commercial motorcycles and motorized bikes are narrow enough to drive between two lanes of traffic on the white lines (i.e., lane-splitting). The act of lane-splitting allows a motorcycle or motorized bike to continue driving through traffic by driving between lanes instead of waiting for traffic to move.

Is Lane-Splitting Legal in Nevada?

Lane-splitting as a driving technique has been outlawed in the State of Nevada for some time. Motorcycle and motorized vehicle operators should understand the legal parameters of lane-splitting and other similar acts before hopping on a bike for a ride.

Lane-Splitting Statute

Under Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 486.351(2) states that “a person shall not drive a motorcycle, moped or trimobile abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane.”

Consequences of Lane-Splitting

Drivers caught lane-splitting face fines and other civil penalties commencing at $190. If a driver is caught lane-splitting multiple times, they risk losing their license and subjecting themselves to criminal liability. Furthermore, drivers caught in the act of lane-splitting may be liable for accidents resulting from their driving. Lastly, persistent fines and criminal penalties relating to lane-splitting may lead to insurance carriers refusing to provide coverage or raise their rates.

Other Forms of Motorcycle Lane Usage

Under NRS 486.351(1), motorcycles or mopeds drivers are prohibited from operating their vehicles between moving or stationary vehicles occupying adjacent lanes of traffic. This prevents motorcycles from swerving in and out of multiple lanes of traffic during instances where traffic has slowed or stopped.

Although lane-splitting is illegal in Nevada, state law allows motorized bike operators to share lanes of traffic. However, under NRS 486.351(3), no more than two motorcycle operators can operate within the same traffic lane if both operators consent.

Is Lane-Splitting Dangerous?

It really depends on who you ask. According to studies cited by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), 59.2% of all comprehensive motorcycle crashes were caused by motorcyclists driving in moderate to severe traffic.

Further, data compiled in a 2015 study conducted by the University of California Berkeley found that lane-splitting allowed motorcyclists to avoid being stuck between multiple motor vehicles during heavy traffic, avoiding minor to severe contact accidents. However, the same study found that of 997 traffic collisions attributed to lane-splitting, the vast majority were caused by motorcycle operators exceeding the posted speed limit.

Currently, only three states in the United States (Montana, Utah, and California) have legalized the act of lane-splitting. However, many countries worldwide, including regions with large metropolitan areas, have allowed lane-splitting to become a common practice. Although more data is necessary to determine whether lane-splitting is dangerous, motorists should always abide by state and local traffic laws.

Types of Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Injuries

Like many motorcycle accidents, lane-splitting can cause massive amounts of damage to the human body. Types of lane-splitting motorcycle and other motorized bicycle accidents can include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Fracturing injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Internal injuries, including organ damage, organ failure, internal bleeding, impalement, and other penetrating trauma
  • Lower-extremity injuries, including fractures, scarring, and dismemberment
  • Road rash occuring when human skin makes contact with asphalt, concrete, or another ground surface, which causes blisters, burns, and scarring

Nevada Motorcycle Laws to Know

Nevada has numerous laws and compliance standards before anyone can ride a motorcycle through public streets. As a result, motorcyclists open themselves to numerous forms of liability and potential physical harm without proper licensure, registration, insurance, and equipment information.

Motorcycle License and Registration Requirements

To operate a motorcycle in Nevada, motorists must obtain a Class M license used explicitly for motorcycles. In addition, motorists must pass a written skills test or a certified course that teaches motorcycle skills training. Eligible applicants must be at least 18 years or older (or must obtain permission from a parent or guardian assuming liability for any willful misconduct committed by the underaged motorist).

All motorcycles must be registered with the State of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). NRS 486.041 defines a motorcycle as a “motor vehicle equipped with a seat or a saddle for the use of the driver and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.” Certain electric bicycles, mopeds, and tractors are exempt from registration.

Motorcycle Insurance

Nevada requires a motorcyclist to maintain a minimum level of coverage, which provides liability protection for the other driver. Because Nevada is an at-fault state, motorists must at least provide coverage for the other party’s injuries. This ensures that if a motorcyclist is found to be at fault, their insurance can pay for the other party’s damages or vice versa.

Helmet Usage and other Equipment.

Nevada requires anyone operating or riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet while the vehicle is in motion. Helmets must meet the minimum safety requirements established by the U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT). The Nevada DMV encourages motorcycle operators to purchase helmets labeled USDOT-approved.

Nevada also has equipment-related rules and regulations for all registered motorcycles. For example, a registered motorcycle must have two sets of turn signals (one in the front and the other in the back) visible for at least 500 feet. Further, all wheels must have brakes, and tires must be USDOT-approved and labeled.

Other relevant motorcycle regulations pertain to:

  • Handlebars and fenders
  • Headlamps
  • Tail and stop lights
  • Reflectors and mirrors
  • Horns
  • Mufflers
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