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Is Lane Splitting Legal in Alabama?

Posted on December 19, 2018

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Motorcycling, for many, is not just a mode of transportation but a way of life. The thrill of the open road, the sense of freedom, and the unique bond between rider and machine are unparalleled. However, with this freedom comes responsibility, especially when navigating the roads of Alabama. As motorcyclists, it’s crucial to be aware of the state’s specific laws and regulations to ensure not only our safety but also to ride within the bounds of the law. One topic that often sparks debate and curiosity among riders is lane splitting. Is it allowed in Alabama? And if not, why?

This article delves deep into the motorcycle laws of Alabama, addressing lane splitting, lane sharing, and other pertinent regulations that every rider should be aware of. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, understanding these laws can make your journey safer and more enjoyable.

Can You Lane Split on a Motorcycle in Alabama?

Lane splitting, often seen as a maneuver where a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic, is a topic of much debate among riders and non-riders alike. While it can be an efficient way to navigate through congested traffic for motorcyclists, it also raises concerns about safety and potential conflicts with other road users.

In Alabama, the answer is clear: lane splitting is not legal. The state’s traffic laws do not permit motorcycles to pass vehicles within the same lane or to ride between lanes of traffic. This means that motorcyclists must adhere to the same rules as other vehicles when it comes to lane usage and overtaking. There are several reasons behind this prohibition. Safety is paramount, and the potential risks associated with lane splitting, such as reduced reaction time for both the motorcyclist and other drivers, can lead to accidents.

Additionally, many drivers are not accustomed to motorcycles moving between lanes, which can result in unexpected maneuvers and collisions. While some states in the U.S. have begun to reconsider their stance on lane splitting, citing potential benefits like reduced traffic congestion and even increased safety when done correctly, Alabama remains firm in its decision to keep the practice illegal. As such, riders are advised to stay within marked lanes and exercise caution, especially in heavy traffic conditions.

Overview of Motorcycle Laws in Alabama

Alabama, like every state, has a set of laws and regulations tailored specifically for motorcyclists. These laws are designed to ensure the safety of both the rider and other road users. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important motorcycle laws in the Heart of Dixie:

  • Licensing Requirements: To legally operate a motorcycle in Alabama, riders must obtain a Class M endorsement on their driver’s license. This requires passing both a written exam and a skills test. Additionally, riders under the age of 18 must complete a state-approved motorcycle training course.
  • Helmet and Gear Regulations: Alabama mandates that all motorcyclists and their passengers wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmet. This law applies regardless of the rider’s age or experience. While other protective gear like gloves, jackets, and boots are highly recommended for safety, they are not legally required.
  • Speed and Traffic Rules Specific to Motorcycles: Motorcyclists in Alabama are subject to the same speed and traffic regulations as other vehicles. This includes obeying posted speed limits, traffic signals, and signage. Additionally, two motorcyclists can ride side by side in a single lane, but no more than two abreast.
  • Equipment Requirements: Motorcycles in Alabama must be equipped with certain safety features, including a rearview mirror, working turn signals, and a horn. Additionally, handlebars on motorcycles should not be higher than the rider’s shoulders, and footrests are required if carrying a passenger.

Understanding and adhering to these laws is crucial for every motorcyclist in Alabama. Not only do they ensure your safety, but they also help in fostering a positive image of motorcyclists among other road users.

The Grandfather Clause for Motorcycle Licenses

The term “grandfather clause” typically refers to a provision that allows individuals or entities to continue with an existing practice or privilege based on certain conditions, even when new rules or laws are put into place. In the context of motorcycle licenses, a grandfather clause would allow certain riders to maintain their licenses without adhering to new licensing requirements.

In Alabama, there isn’t a specific “grandfather clause” for motorcycle licenses. This means that all riders, regardless of when they obtained their license, must meet the current licensing requirements set by the state. If there were any changes or updates to the licensing process, existing license holders would not be exempt from these changes unless explicitly stated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). For instance, if Alabama were to introduce a mandatory refresher course for all motorcycle license holders, those who obtained their licenses before the introduction of this course would likely need to comply unless a specific exemption was provided. It’s always a good idea for riders to stay updated with the latest licensing requirements and any potential changes. Regularly checking with the ALEA or the Department of Motor Vehicles can provide clarity on any new regulations or requirements.

Lane Sharing Vs. Lane Splitting

The terms “lane sharing” and “lane splitting” are often used interchangeably, but they refer to distinct practices on the road, especially when it comes to motorcycles.

  • Lane Splitting: As previously discussed, lane splitting involves a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic. This practice is currently illegal in Alabama due to safety concerns and the potential for accidents.
  • Lane Sharing: Lane sharing, on the other hand, refers to two motorcyclists riding side by side within the same lane. In Alabama, this practice is legal. Two motorcyclists can ride abreast in a single lane, but no more than two side by side. This allows riders to communicate more easily and can be especially useful during group rides or when traveling with a companion.

While lane sharing is permitted, it’s essential for riders to exercise caution. Riding side by side reduces the space available for each motorcyclist to maneuver, especially in emergency situations. It’s crucial to maintain a safe distance, be aware of each other’s movements, and communicate intentions clearly. In summary, while Alabama riders can legally share a lane with another motorcyclist, they cannot split lanes with cars or other vehicles. As always, safety should be the top priority, and riders should be well-informed about the laws and best practices to ensure a safe journey on the road.

The New Left Lane Law in Alabama

Driving etiquette and laws often emphasize the importance of the left lane on highways and interstates. In many places, the left lane is primarily reserved for overtaking slower vehicles, ensuring smoother traffic flow. Alabama has taken steps to reinforce this principle with the introduction of the new left lane law. The new left lane law in Alabama, often referred to as the “Anti-Road Rage Act,” is designed to prevent drivers from continuously occupying the left lane on interstates and highways, especially if they are impeding the flow of traffic. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Purpose: The primary goal of this law is to reduce instances of road rage and improve overall traffic flow. By keeping the left lane clear for overtaking, drivers can move more efficiently, reducing congestion and potential conflicts.
  • Regulations: Under this law, drivers are prohibited from occupying the left lane for more than a mile and a half without overtaking another vehicle. If a driver is found continuously driving in the left lane without passing other vehicles, they can be ticketed.
  • Exceptions: There are certain situations where drivers are allowed to remain in the left lane, such as when traffic conditions or road configurations require it, during inclement weather, or when preparing for a left-hand turn.
  • Implications for Motorcyclists: Just like other vehicles, motorcyclists are subject to this law. It’s essential for riders to be aware of their lane position and ensure they are not impeding traffic when in the left lane.

The introduction of this law underscores Alabama’s commitment to safer and more efficient roads. Whether you’re behind the wheel or gripping the handlebars, understanding and adhering to this regulation is crucial for everyone’s safety.

Understanding the Lane Change Law in Alabama

Changing lanes on the road might seem like a simple maneuver, but it’s one that requires attention, judgment, and adherence to specific laws to ensure safety. In Alabama, the lane change law outlines the proper procedures and requirements for drivers and motorcyclists alike when they intend to switch lanes.

  • Signaling Intent: Before making a lane change, it’s mandatory to use the appropriate turn signal to indicate your intention. This signal should be activated at least 100 feet before the lane change on city streets and 500 feet on highways.
  • Checking Blind Spots: Before changing lanes, drivers and riders must ensure that the lane they intend to move into is clear. This involves checking mirrors and physically looking over one’s shoulder to ensure no vehicles are in the blind spot.
  • Yielding to Traffic: When changing lanes, you must yield to vehicles already in that lane. Forcing other drivers to slow down or take evasive action because of a lane change can result in a violation.
  • Prohibited Zones: Lane changes are strictly prohibited in areas with solid lane markings, intersections, and other zones where it’s deemed unsafe. Always be aware of road markings and their implications.
  • Implications for Motorcyclists: Motorcyclists, due to their smaller size, have a slightly different challenge when changing lanes. It’s crucial for riders to be even more vigilant, ensuring they are visible to other drivers and making clear and deliberate lane changes.

In essence, the lane change law in Alabama emphasizes safety and clarity of intent. Whether driving a car or riding a motorcycle, it’s essential to be predictable, cautious, and always aware of one’s surroundings when switching lanes.


Is lane splitting legal for motorcyclists in Alabama?

No, lane splitting is not permitted in Alabama. Motorcyclists must adhere to the same lane usage rules as other vehicles.

What’s the difference between lane splitting and lane sharing?

Lane splitting involves a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of traffic, while lane sharing refers to two motorcyclists riding side by side within the same lane. In Alabama, lane sharing is legal, but lane splitting is not.

Do I need to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle in Alabama?

Yes, Alabama law mandates that all motorcyclists and their passengers wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmet, regardless of age or experience.

What is the new left lane law in Alabama about?

The new left lane law, often called the “Anti-Road Rage Act,” prohibits drivers from continuously occupying the left lane on highways and interstates without overtaking other vehicles. The aim is to improve traffic flow and reduce instances of road rage.

Are there any specific equipment requirements for motorcycles in Alabama?

Yes, motorcycles in Alabama must have certain safety features, including a rearview mirror, working turn signals, and a horn. Additionally, handlebars should not be higher than the rider’s shoulders, and footrests are required if carrying a passenger.


Navigating the roads of Alabama, whether on two wheels or four, requires a comprehensive understanding of the state’s traffic laws. For motorcyclists, in particular, being well-informed is not just a matter of legal compliance but also a crucial factor in ensuring safety. From the clear prohibition of lane splitting to the nuances of the new left lane law, Alabama’s regulations aim to create a harmonious and safe environment for all road users. As we’ve delved deep into the motorcycle laws of Alabama, it’s evident that the state prioritizes the well-being of its residents. While some regulations might seem restrictive, they are in place to reduce potential conflicts and accidents on the road. For motorcyclists, knowledge is power. Being aware of these laws and adhering to them can make your rides more enjoyable and, most importantly, safer.

And remember, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need clarity on these laws or face challenges related to them, don’t hesitate to reach out to motorcycle attorney at Drake Injury Lawyers at 205-859-2236. Ride safe, and always stay informed!