California is unique for many reasons. One of those ways of particular interest to motorcycle riders involves statutory provisions on lane-splitting. This practice is allowed in no other state.
Lane-splitting allows riders to pass through areas of heavy traffic by riding in between lanes of slowed or stopped vehicles. While the practice is convenient for riders, it can also be highly dangerous. Drivers unaccustomed to the practice often do not expect a rider’s presence between lanes. This increases the risk of collision. Oddly, it is almost impossible to determine exactly how dangerous lane splitting is, because California government reports do not track how many accident involve the practice. NBC Bay Area attempted to report on the dangers inherent to lane splitting. Ultimately, the station was able to find only a single inconclusive study from the University of California at Berkeley, and no official government data.
Motorcycle accidents pose unique dangers to riders. If you or a loved one has been injured on a motorcycle - whether by lane splitting or other circumstances - you need the skilled legal representation of a San Fernando Valley motorcycle accident lawyer.
California is the Only State Which Allows Legal Lane Splitting
No other state in America allows motorcycle riders to split lanes. In fact, California itself did not officially sanction the practice for many years. It was long stuck in a legal limbo where lane splitting was neither expressly allowed nor prohibited. In 2016, the California state legislature authorized a bill directing the California Highway Patrol to establish guidelines for safe lane splitting practices by motorcyclists. The LA Times reports that this bill was passed after a citizen complained about CHP’s earlier attempt to issue such a guide in 2015, claiming that the agency was attempting to create laws. The Legislature quickly gave CHP the authority to do so.
The result of this legislation was a simple guide published by the California Highway Patrol. IT is only five pages long, and gives general guidelines, along with basic “dos and don’ts” for lane-splitting.
Practical Tips for Rider Safety
While the CHP guide gives riders legal guidance on the practice of lane splitting, it cannot ensure rider safety. Motorcyclists who do lane split should always do so with a mindset towards accident avoidance.
- Make sure nearby drivers are aware of your presence. This may require the use of your headlight or horn.
- Never travel faster than is safe for current conditions. The CHP guide recommends that riders do not exceed ten miles per hour faster than surrounding traffic. This may not be safe for all circumstances, particularly when slick roads or poor visibility make it more difficult to react to obstacles in the road.
- Be sure you have the experience necessary to safely perform a lane split. This practice requires a unique set of skills, both in motorcycle operation and the safe navigation of heavy traffic. New or inexperienced riders should not split lanes.
With adequate experience, defensive driving behaviors, and courteous respect for all drivers in the roadway, lane splitting can be performed safely.