One of the main benefits of riding a motorcycle is the fact that unlike our 4 wheeled counterparts, when we come upon lines of stationary traffic, we can still make progress and filter through towards the front of the queue. Filtering has been the cause of many a debate over the years with many arguing about the legitimacy of such an action. So what is the legal position?
Well for those of you who are unsure, let me ask you a question! What is filtering? In simple terms it is an overtaking manoeuvre, and in most cases it is perfectly legal provided:
You don’t cross over or straddle a solid centre white line system.
You don’t overtake after a ‘No Overtaking’ sign.
You do not overtake the lead vehicle within the confines of the zigzags of a pedestrian/pelican crossing as it may have stopped to allow pedestrians to cross.
No danger is caused to other road users and no vehicle is caused to alter course or speed.
So in short, providing those 4 conditions are complied with then there shouldn’t be a problem, however when it comes to accidents, civil liability can paint a somewhat different picture.
When a motorcyclist is involved in a filtering accident, most insurance companies will try and use the case law of Powell v Moody which dates back to 1966 to mitigate their losses. In that case a motorcyclist was overtaking a line of stationary traffic and was found to be 80% to blame when he hit a car which was ‘inching out’ into the carriageway after a milk tanker signalled to him to pull out. The court felt that the motorcyclist was undertaking an ‘operation’ which is fraught with great hazard and which needed to be carried out with great care.
In the case of Clarke v Whinchurch in 1969, an overtaking motorcyclist (Moped) in similar circumstances was found to be 100% to blame. The judge ruled that he (the motorcyclist) should have realised something was happening up ahead when a bus in a line of slow moving traffic stopped to let a vehicle out from a side road on his left. The car came out quite slowly in front of the bus and was hit by the moped. (f you are ever involved in a filtering accident, you probably won’t want to quote this case to the other side).
In more recent cases (Leeson v Bevis Transport 1972) the motorcycle and emerging vehicle were found equally responsible. The court said that the motorcyclist did nothing wrong in overtaking the line of stationary vehicles, but needed to keep an effective lookout, whilst the van driver should have been aware of the possibility of vehicles overtaking in this way.
The most recent case of this kind was in 1980 in the case of Worsford v Howe. In this instance the motorcyclist was in a separate lane intended for vehicles turning right, when he was hit by a car which was intending to cross both lanes of traffic and turn right. The court found once again that both rider and driver were equally to blame and settled 50/50, however this was superceded by DAVIS - v - SCHROGIN (2006) which found 100% in favour of the filtering motorcyclist.
In filtering cases, the court will when deciding who is to blame will look at:
The speed and position of the motorcycle in the road.
Whether the stream of traffic was stationary or moving.
How fast the other vehicle emerged from the side road or from the line of traffic.
Filtering is an accepted and legitimate practice, and unless there is a case of dangerous or careless driving to answer, or one of the 4 conditions mentioned previously have been breached, then it is very rare that a Police prosecution will follow, but in terms of a civil action, then this is where the real headache can begin.
As it stands at the moment, although some of the most recent cases have found both parties equally responsible, and in some cases they courts have found 100% in favour of the motorcyclist, you have to bear in mind that you could still end up bearing 80% or even 100% of the blame depending on the evidence.
So to sum up, filtering in most cases is perfectly legal, is accepted as being a benefit of riding a motorcycle and is something that just about every rider has done at some stage without any problems, but, should you be unfortunate to have a collision whilst filtering, then just be aware of the pitfalls you are likely to encounter until such time as current case law is updated again.
However as an update hot off the press :w00t: I have just assisted in a case where the rider was undertaking on a dual carriageway and got wiped out by a car moving from the outside lane into the nearside lane as the bike was passing.
The defence tried to argue that undertaking was illegal and therefore their client could not be held liable. They were not aware that the actual offence was removed from the statute book with the introduction of the 1972 road traffic act and eventually conceded liability 100% in favour of the rider.
If you have any queries or problems regarding filtering or undertaking, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.