Motorcycle Lane Splitting is when the motorcyclist passes between lanes on the road when there’s traffic or when cars are immobile or moving slowly. The narrow shape of motorcycles enables them to perform this maneuver.
Since motorcycles are here to stay, and car drivers and cyclists seem to have this ongoing disagreement on whether it is right to lane-split in the first place, the University of California Berkeley surveyed approximately 6,000 motorcycle traffic accidents. It came up with statistically proven facts to support the adoption of lane-splitting.
Statistics prove that lane-splitting motorcyclists are more safety conscious and are more likely to be in the adequate protective gear required for riders and, as such, are less likely to suffer from head injuries. It also proves that riders are less likely to drive drunk, be involved in rear-end accidents, and are more likely to ride at slower speeds.
The University’s study also proved that lane-splitting is safe if traffic is at 50 mph or less and motorcyclists do not exceed the traffic speed by 15 mph or less. Lane-splitting is a safe practice to adopt because both the drivers and riders stand to gain more from embracing the approach. For instance, lane-splitting motorcyclists allow vehicles to occupy the vacated lanes, which speeds up traffic that would otherwise be slower.
Lane-splitting keeps coming up in conversations because more and more people own motorcycles to ease transportation for fun and business-related purposes. Due to this, motorists are constantly wondering if it is even legal for motorcyclists to move between lanes on roads.
To answer the question of the legality of lane-splitting, one must bear in mind that lane-splitting laws differ in various regions. It is common to see motorcyclists lane-splitting in most parts of Europe and underdeveloped countries. Still, in the United States, different states have different laws, with California being the only state where lane-splitting is entirely legal. However, motorists practiced lane-splitting illegally before it was officially legalized in the state.
Lane splitting was legalized on August 19, 2016, in California after Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Assembly bill 51 (AB 51) that permits the act and gives the California Department of Highways the license to create guidelines to ensure the safety of motorists concerning lane-splitting.
In some states like Utah, a form of lane splitting referred to as ‘lane filtering’ was legalized as of May 14, 2022. Lane filtering occurs when the cyclist filters forward from different lanes to the front at a traffic stop, mostly at red lights. The state has also laid down rules to guide motorists.
The cyclist must travel at roughly 15 mph on roads with a 45 mph or lower speed limit between vehicles on two or more lanes. Filtering, in this case, can only occur if the vehicles have all stopped, according to the bill passed by Governor Spencer Cox.
Other states considering adopting lane-splitting and lane-filtering include Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, Maryland, Arizona, Montana, and Virginia. Hawaii allows motorcyclists to “shoulder-surf” or rides past traffic that has stopped. Montana allows lane filtering if the motorcycle riders drive below 50 mph and ensure they don’t exceed 10 mph speed compared to other riders. Virginia is still considering legalizing lane filtering. Arizona’s lane filtering rules are similar to that of Utah.
Although lane splitting and lane sharing (when motorcyclists ride side by side on the same lane) are legal in California, there are still some situations that would get a rider in trouble with the law. The exception to lane splitting is attempting to do so at the shoulder of the road or lane splitting when traffic is moving close to the road’s speed limit. Doing the latter is considered to be extremely dangerous.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued some lane-splitting safety guidelines on September 27, 2018, to be practiced to ensure motorists’ safety. Although CHP disregarded it due to a complaint, here is a sneak peek into the general idea of the tips issued.
Guidelines For Motorcyclists
- Riders must be acutely aware of the dangers of riding at speeds higher than those approved by regulatory bodies for motorists when lane splitting—noting that higher speed goes hand in hand with increased risk of danger.
- Riders should avoid splitting or sharing with Semi-Trucks or other large vehicles.
- Ensure that you’re visible at all times during traffic. This can be aided by wearing brightly colored protective gear or high beams during daylight.
- Avoid any road usage practices considered an exception to lane splitting, like riding on the shoulder of the road.
- Even though lane splitting is legal, other factors should also be considered when deciding on lane split, like the weather at the time, the size of other vehicles, and the width of the road, amongst others.
Guidelines For Car Drivers and All Motorists
- Drivers should consciously move to the left of their traffic lanes to allow motorcyclists to ride.
- All motorists should show responsibility by regularly checking their rearview mirrors to ensure that when there’s a need to swap lanes or turn, they don’t put other motorists at risk.
- Watch out for motorists and be alert to any indication of any movement to prevent unnecessary casualties.
- Drivers should know that deliberately blocking motorcyclists from lane splitting is illegal, including opening car doors to prevent riders from moving past.
- Drivers should never forget that lane splitting has been officially legalized in California, so it should go a long way in calming their rage when it occurs.
- Road Users should never drive or ride under the influence of alcohol or any drug to avoid being a threat to themselves and others.
- Use adequate means to inform other drivers and riders of planned movements. For instance, using a trafficator to signify a turn.
- Motorists should always be focused and alert for potholes, bumps, and other drivers that could jeopardize their safety.
Despite the legalization of lane splitting, many drivers are still against this move. It’s best to consider its many advantages, especially in decongesting traffic and enabling drivers/riders to move faster. Although lane splitting is now legal in California, motorcyclists still have strict rules to follow.
Motorcyclists’ legal issues after sustaining a personal injury due to an accident linked to lane splitting can be tricky, even in a state where it’s legal. Ensure you take pictures and videos, collect necessary information and acquire an excellent los angeles personal injury attorney. Ensure you’re always following rules laid by regulatory bodies.
The Next Step
If you were involved in a motorcycle accident and you’re seeking proper counsel, contact us at Bojat Law Group, to get in touch with a personal injury attorney and learn how we can assist you with the proper legal solutions for your case.