While driving around the picturesque roads of California, you have no doubt encountered a motorcyclist –– or a group of them –– at some point during your travels. According to Statista.com, there are more than 800,000 registered motorcycles in the Golden State. Around the beaches especially, they are common methods of transportation. What is even more common is to experience motorcyclists riding between lanes of traffic. This is called “lane splitting.” In the United States, lane splitting is highly regulated, and people often wonder whether it is legal in California.
Listed below are four important points about lane splitting in California.
Lane Splitting is Legal Only in California
Motorcycle lane splitting is often misinterpreted by road users as being illegal, but this is not always true. It has never been illegal for California drivers to split lanes or share lanes. As such, lane splitting has long been a common method of traveling for motorcycles, particularly as the traffic got slower. Over time, motorcycle riders started lane splitting to keep their vehicles cool and reduce traffic congestion so they could reach their destinations quicker. When lane-splitting, motorcycle riders still have to abide by speed limits, other traffic laws, and can be cited if they do not operate their vehicles responsibly.
In every state except California, lane splitting is unlawful, according to the American Motorcyclist Association. In most states, it is illegal for motorcyclists to pass a vehicle in the same lane or to ride between lanes of traffic. Nonetheless, there have been some states that have proposed legislation permitting lane splitting.
Changes to the Law Were Implemented
In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law to lay to rest any uncertainty about lane-splitting. Following its implementation, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was allowed to set clear guidelines regarding lane splitting to keep motorists safe. Specifically, Section 400 of the bill defined lane splitting as a motorcycle riding between rows of stationary or moving cars with two wheels on the ground.
California Highway Patrol, in collaboration with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor vehicles, and the office of traffic safety and motorcycle safety, developed “lane splitting safety tips.”
Limited Data on the Dangers of Lane-Splitting
Lack of data is one of the biggest issues with lane splitting. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at University of California, Berkeley, 17 percent of the 6,000 motorcyclists who crashed between June 2012 and August 2013 were lane splitting.
The study also indicates that lane splitting is a relatively safe way to ride a motorcycle in traffic moving at fewer than 50 mph, as long as the speed of the motorcycle does not exceed that of surrounding traffic by more than 15 mph. However, the authors point out that the study cannot be used to assess the overall safety of lane splitting. To determine the safety of the practice overall, researchers would need to collect crash data on motorcycle riders who lane split as well as those who do not and see if one population is more prone to crashes.
While California is the only state where lane splitting is legal, it has a low number of motorcycle deaths per 100,000 registered motorcycles when compared to other states according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This, however, fails to consider other state-to-state variations, such as helmet regulations and motorcycle riding culture. The fact remains that there is no definitive evidence that lane splitting is safe.
Motorcyclists and Drivers Have Different Opinions
Speed and safety are two main reasons motorcycle riders lane split. As a result of lane splitting, motorcycles can travel through traffic at a much faster speed than cars, and bikers say that it improves commutes for everyone. Motorcyclists say lane splitting actually makes them feel safer while riding, despite the fact that drivers often cite safety as a criticism of the practice. Drivers, according to motorcycle groups, tend to associate lane splitting with acts of recklessness, high speeds, rather than with lawful, slow speed lane splitting.
Drivers, on the other hand, generally do not like motorcyclists who lane split. Most drivers disapprove of lane splitting because they believe it is unsafe and unfair. Some people are concerned about the increased risk of accidents, while others don’t appreciate that it is a sudden and startling maneuver.
Call the Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Younglove Law Group Today
Motorcycle accident injuries can be quite serious, resulting in life-threatening injuries and complications. A victim can incur medical bills that top five, six, or even seven figures. Moreover, they may also experience continuous employment difficulties for months or be unable to return to work due to permanent disability. And, when a family member has died in a motorcycle accident, you have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
You deserve to seek justice for your pain, and attorneys with Younglove Law Group can help you do just that. Our firm has helped clients recover millions in settlements and awards. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys, call (844) 810-1800 or complete our online contact form.