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FILTERING – RIDING THE LINE – LEGAL OR ILLEGAL?

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Motorcycle Compensation, Motorbike Accident Solicitors,

Why do motorcyclists filter? The answer is, because they can!

Guided by the brain of an experienced biker, a motorcycle is one of the smallest yet most powerful machines on the planet. Maneuverability is its second name and its ability to negotiate the tightest traffic jams has been accepted since traffic jams were born. But is it legal? Here we discuss filtering and its effect upon accident claims.  

The relationship with cars and heavier vehicles is inextricably linked since it is they that we negotiate when filtering and furthermore it is they that usually send us flying across the road surface when they come into contact with us.  

You have to go back to basics to understand your relationship with legality and who actually owes a duty of care to whom. Let’s start with the Highway Code and learn what it says. It is quite precise in what it says about the standard and duty of care of car drivers. (In this I also refer to ‘car drivers’ as meaning other road users of light and heavy goods vehicles.) Accidents are usually caused when vehicles are maneuvering whilst stuck in queues. We bikers like to refer to it as impatience. The Highway Code is quite specific when it refers to maneuvering in that it states  

“You should be aware of what is behind and to the sides before manoeuvring. Look behind you; use mirrors if they are fitted. When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes. Position yourself so that drivers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.”  

So, just how many seem to forget this basic and simple rule of motoring? You don’t need a bead board to count them at rush hour. It continues with this simple golden rule: “Remember: Observation – Signal – Manoeuvre”   Some say that rules are made to be broken, and so are necks and limbs, but that doesn’t make it alright.  

Rule 204 states   “The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders.”  

Quite specific I would say. Whilst I don’t want to bore you with endless quotations I think that it is important to note what else is said in the Highway Code. These passages will be useful to you in the event of an accident, so we cannot emphasis strongly enough that you be aware of them.  

Under the sub heading of ‘Motorcyclists and cyclists’, Section 211 says: “It is often difficult to see motorcyclists and cyclists, especially when they are coming up from behind, coming out of junctions, at roundabouts, overtaking you or filtering through traffic. Always look out for them before you emerge from a junction; they could be approaching faster than you think. When turning right across a line of slow-moving or stationary traffic, look out for cyclists or motorcyclists on the inside of the traffic you are crossing. Be especially careful when turning, and when changing direction or lane. Be sure to check mirrors and blind spots carefully.”   Thereafter, section 213 states:   “Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”  

The advice isn’t rocket science; it’s just a matter of using good road sense and using mirrors and making yourself aware of what is around you. But you must be aware that whether you are on a moped, scooter or high powered motorcycle, filtering is one of the most hazardous and dangerous things you can do. Perfectly legal; yes, but dangerous – very, very dangerous.  

Motorcyclists are constantly aware of what drivers do, but that is not so of drivers who sometimes seem oblivious to motorcycles and scooters. Very recently the term ‘think bike’ was used to press the point home in a national campaign to make drivers aware of bikers. That should tell you something about the ‘driver’ mentality. At all times, we are aware of them but sometimes they are oblivious of us and that can be to our detriment. So what happened to that successful campaign? Like most useful campaigns it appears to have been shelved. Maybe they think that the message has got home, but whoever thought that could not be more wrong. Just visit any Orthopaedic ward and look at the long line of legs in plaster that say otherwise.

Everybody recognises the vulnerability of motorcyclists when a collision occurs, and this is made quite plain in the Highway Code. Yet despite this, we constantly see cases where motorcyclists are persuaded to accept a certain amount of blame apportionment because some courts see filtering as being a contributory fact. In this legal system, cases are usually decided by considering earlier cases that are referred to as ‘precedents’. A precedent is where the facts of one case can be applied to another and the reason for deciding the case outcome is usually made by the Judge whose comments are taken into account. This ‘reason for deciding’ rule follows in all cases, and whilst sometimes it can be inappropriate to your case, the danger is that it can be used to persuade the court in favour of a driver as opposed to a motorcyclist. There have been cases in the past where motorcyclists have been found to be 100% at fault when they have been filtering.  

When it comes time to argue compensation in cases involving filtering or overtaking, contributory negligence is always argues against the motorcyclist. Being aware of your rights before you even visit your lawyer this can sometimes ensure that unreasonable arguments simply being made to save the Insurers money can be nipped in the bud.   In some countries they call it line riding, and in the US they call it ‘lane splitting’. There have been various attempts to argue the legality of this type of manouvre made by bikers over the years.  

In Europe, the MAIDS Report was conducted using (OECD) standards in 1999 – 2000 and collected data on over 900 motorcycle accidents in five countries, along with non-accident exposure data (control cases) to measure the contribution of different factors to accidents. Four of the five countries where data was collected allow lane splitting or filtering, while one does not, yet none of the conclusions contained in the MAIDS Final Report note any difference in rear-end accidents or accidents during lane splitting.  

It should be noted that the pre-crash motion of the motorcycle or scooter was lane-splitting or filtering in only 0.4% of cases, in contrast to the more common accident situations such as "Moving in a straight line, constant speed" 49.1% and "Negotiating a bend, constant speed" 12.1%. The motorcyclist was stopped in traffic prior to 2.8% of the accidents.  

Preliminary results indicate that from a study in the United Kingdom, conducted by the University of Nottingham for the Department of Transport indicated that filtering and lane splitting is responsible for around 5% of motorcyclists that are killed or injured. It also found that in these cases where filtering took place the motorist or car driver is twice as likely to be at fault as the motorcyclist due to drivers "failing to take into account possible motorcycle riding strategies in heavy traffic". Maybe some would conclude that the results aren’t conclusive, but the indications point directly at car drivers as opposed to motorcyclists.  

To conclude, what we are certain of is that in the majority of cases of collisions where car drivers pull into the path of motorcyclists, bikers get a raw deal if they are caught ‘filtering’. The stigma attached to this relatively harmless yet safe mode of traffic negotiation has become a dirty word in the eyes of some lawyers and insurance companies.  

In short the word filtering has just become a stick with which to beat the poor old biker, yet again. If you are going to filter, be aware at all times that you could be dubbed the aggressor. If that will satisfy the greed of the insurers and their defendant lawyers in their endless quest to save their shareholders money, then you must understand that you will have your work cut out for you in the event of an accident.  

The biker’s motto should be: “Think once, think twice, think idiot!”...

Remember this when referring to other drivers and you won’t go far wrong.

For further information and advice contact Motorcycle Compensation.com on 0800 622 6517

Article suplied by www.MotorcycleCompensation.com

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