Is Lane-Splitting Legal in Virginia?

Lane splitting is a form of reckless driving in Virginia, and carries the penalties of the Class 1 misdemeanor. Lane sharing, however, is perfectly fine.
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by | Last updated Jun 29, 2020 | Published on Oct 9, 2019 | Virginia Traffic Law

Confusion about lane splitting tends to stem from how you specifically define the term.

As far as the Virginia Code is concerned, the term “lane splitting” can describe two completely different actions.

One is when a motorcyclist passes between two vehicles in adjacent lanes while traffic is moving or still (the more common definition you’re already familiar with).

The other is the sharing of a single lane by two motorcycles who are riding abreast (often called “lane sharing”).

In Virginia, “lane splitting” is illegal, and is classified as reckless driving.

However, lane sharing is perfectly fine, as noted in the Virginia Code section quoted below.

The remainder of this article will explain this distinction in more detail.

Lane Splitting Basics

Thinking about lane splitting in rush hour traffic

The most important law that you need to be aware of is Virginia Code § 46.2-857, which specifically states:

“A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives any motor vehicle so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one…Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit two two-wheeled motorcycles from traveling abreast while traveling in a lane designated for one vehicle.”

Virginia Code § 46.2-857

The law makes note of a few other exceptions to the normal “lane splitting” law, but those two points are the most important for this discussion.

Specifically, this law is one of the 15 specific actions the Virginia Code defines as reckless driving.

It’s important to note that Virginia courts are notoriously harsh when it comes to reckless driving charges.

In fact, most reckless driving charges result in large fines and sometimes even jail time.

For this reason, you should be especially aware of the considerable risks you take on by lane splitting in the Commonwealth.

Regardless of any discussions on the safety or practicality of lane-splitting, it is a crime in Virginia with harsh penalties that you’ll want to avoid.

I Received a Ticket for Lane Splitting, What Now?

First, you should double check to make sure the officer actually charged you under the “lane splitting” statute listed above.

In some cases, the officer may choose to charge you with a different crime or infraction besides the reckless driving statute listed above.

If your ticket specifically says “Reckless Driving,” “RD,” or notes one of the Virginia reckless driving statutes (such as § 46.2-857), then your ticket is for reckless driving.

If you don’t see any of these on the lines “Law Section” or “Describe Charge,” then your ticket is most likely for some other related offense.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Handsome man in casual clothes is using a laptop and smiling while sitting in the motorcycle repair shop

While you can often handle lesser traffic infractions by simply paying a fine online, you should always hire an attorney to help you with a reckless driving charge.

To be perfectly clear, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, punishable by both fines and potentially even jail time.

Regardless of the public’s perception of the issue, the Virginia Code treats lane splitting as reckless.

While most first-time offenders can avoid jail time by paying their fines and taking driving classes, a reckless driving conviction will remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life, and is something you should take steps to avoid.

For this reason, the only answer to “I received a ticket for lane splitting, what now?” is to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case.

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