Lane filtering is a big issue for many motorcyclists, and increasingly important when it comes to improving road safety and traffic congestion.
Advocates of legal lane filtering argue that it gives motorcyclists more control on the roads, and allows them to move through busy traffic and into safer positions.
Despite calls for a standardisation of lane filtering legislation, the laws remain inconsistent. If you're driving across state lines, this can result in frustration and confusion not just for you as a rider, but for other road users too.
At Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, we are strong advocates for a uniform national lane filtering standard. But while this is being developed, it's important the riders know what is legal, and what's not, right now. So what can you do, what can't you do, and where are the differences?
Lane filtering occurs when a motorcyclist or motorised scooter rider travels through stagnant or slow-moving traffic. A rider is lane filtering when they travel between:
As with all road manoeuvres, lane filtering is only legal if it is safe to do so. If conditions aren't safe, don't risk it.
In Western Australia, the law surrounding lane filtering is somewhat complex. Put simply, WA legislation doesn't specifically address lane filtering, though WA considers it an unsafe practice.
In a notable change to lane filtering legislation nationally, the Northern Territory recently legalised lane filtering. This is an important step for motorcyclists and road safety in the NT.
Fortunately, there are some aspects of lane filtering legislation that are pretty consistent across Australia.
With the exception of WA, lane filtering is permitted across the rest of Australia, if safe to do so, in situations where a motorcycle is travelling between:
With the exception of WA, lane filtering is also permitted on all types of roads, on roads with two or more lanes travelling in the same direction, as well as through intersections.
There are three situations where lane filtering is illegal Australia-wide. You aren't allowed to lane filter:
Lane filtering in these circumstances not only puts you at risk, but can also cause injury to someone else. You can also face penalties if caught.
In addition to the WA exception, there are a number of other situations where lane filtering legislation differs between states.
In both Victoria and Queensland, lane filtering between parked cars and traffic is legal, if safe to do so.
In New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory, lane filtering between parked cars and traffic is illegal.
In Queensland, it is legal to lane filter in any speed zone. In Victoria it's also legal to lane filter in any speed zone if safe to do so, but not if otherwise signed.
In NSW and Tasmania, lane filtering is legal in all speed zones provided the motorcyclist is going less than 30km/h.
In SA and the NT, lane filtering is legal only at speeds of less than 30km/h, while in the ACT, lane filtering is only legal in speed zones of less than 40km/h.
You can legally lane filter in a CBD area in all states except WA and the ACT.
In Victoria, lane filtering in school zones or adjacent to shopping strips is legal if safe to do so.
In Queensland, you cannot lane filter in school zones during school zone hours.
In the NT, Tasmania and SA, lane filtering is not legal in school zones during school hours.
In NSW and the ACT, you cannot lane filter in school zones or adjacent to shopping strips at any time.
Interestingly, South Australian legislation specifies that lane filtering across pedestrian crossings is also illegal.
Despite recent progress in the NT, the law surrounding lane filtering in Australia remains frustratingly unclear. The inconsistencies between states can cause headaches for riders and other road users alike.
We strongly recommend you use this guide to understand what is legal in your state so you can lane filter in your daily routine knowing you are safe to do so. You can also refer back to this blog at any time before you plan your next interstate road trip.
We firmly believe that a national standard of lane filtering legislation would ensure motorcyclists and road users enjoy the peace of mind that comes with clear law, and safer roads.
As the conversation around developing a national standard increases, we encourage you to make your voice heard. Hearing from riders first-hand around what works, and what doesn't, is important. This ensures that legislation developed actually covers the reality of riding - keeping lane filtering safer and easier for everyone.
Our specialist road injury lawyers are experienced in a range of claims related to road accident injuries. If you've been hurt on the road, we can help you understand your options.
Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.