While you may have never heard of the term lane splitting, you have certainly seen it out on the road. Lane splitting refers to riding a motorcycle between two lanes of slowed or stopped traffic, following the dotted lines that separate lanes of traffic in the roadway.
Lane splitting is legal in California, and the practice is endorsed nationally by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA). But there is still a great deal of discussion about whether this controversial practice should be legal.
Lane Splitting Pros & Cons
Lane splitting is most common in traffic jams and at red lights, where traffic has come to a stop, or when motorcyclists are simply attempting to avoid stopped traffic. It is a practice that has both its proponents and detractors.
Proponents argue that lane splitting:
• Eases Traffic Congestion
With traffic congestion a big concern in many areas of California, they see lane splitting as a way to reduce backups.
• Is Safer for Motorcyclists Than Sitting in Bumper-to-bumper Traffic
Many motorcyclists say that one of their biggest worries is being sandwiched between a moving vehicle coming behind them and a stationary vehicle in front of them. They believe that lane splitting affords them protection from this occurring.
• Decreases the Number of Serious Motorcycle Accidents
A study done prior to lane splitting being made legal in California, showed that the rate of head injuries, torso injuries, and fatalities was lower for lane splitting motorcyclists, traveling 50 mph or less.
On the other hand, its detractors claim that lane splitting increases the risk of accidents for several reasons:
1. Drivers of passenger vehicles never expect a motorcyclist to pass in between them;
2. When a motorcyclist is riding in between other vehicles, it increases the risk of an accident if one of the vehicles were to shift or swerve;
3. Drivers might have difficulty seeing the motorcyclist when they are lane splitting;
4. Motorcyclists might drive too close to a car and knock off a side mirror or cause other damage to the vehicle; and
5. A car making a left-hand turn might not see the lane splitting motorcyclist and turn into them.
Lane Splitting and The Law
In 2016, the California Legislature added a formal definition of lane splitting to the California Vehicle Code, and authorized the California Highway Patrol (CHP)to produce guidelines for lane splitting. These guidelines, called Lane Splitting Safety Tips, contain guidance for both motorcyclists and drivers in California.
For example, the CHP guidelines regarding lane splitting recommends the following best practices for motorcyclists:
• Take into consideration the total environment before lane splitting;
• Avoid lane splitting between trucks, buses, motor homes, etc.;
• Riding on the shoulder is against the law and will not be considered lane splitting;
• Do not travel more than ten mph faster than the surrounding traffic when passing between vehicles;
• Do not engage in lane splitting when the traffic is moving faster than 30mph;
• When at all possible, split between the two leftmost lanes rather than other lanes; and
• Always assume that other motor vehicles cannot see you, and give them as much room as possible.
On the other hand, the CHP guidelines inform drivers that:
• Lane splitting is legal in California;
• It is unlawful to block or impede a motorcycle in a way that could cause harm to the rider;
• Opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal; and
• Drivers in the far-left lane should move to the left of that lane to give motorcyclists room to pass.
Who is Liable in a Motorcycle Lane Splitting Accident?
Lane splitting is still as contentious a subject in California as it was when it was illegal. Because of the many factors involved, it can also be difficult to prove who is liable for a lane splitting accident.
However, there are instances where liability for a lane splitting accident is clear-cut, including under the following circumstances:
• When a driver hits a motorcyclist who was splitting lanes safely. In this case, the driver is clearly liable; and
• When a motorcyclist is speeding, recklessly weaving in and out of traffic, or otherwise splitting lanes unsafely. In this case, the motorcyclist is clearly liable.
Thus, in most cases, the deciding factor will be whether or not the motorcyclist was splitting lanes safely. Furthermore, the CHP guidelines may need to be consulted for guidance on what should be considered “safely.”
Call eAccidentsFor More Information Regarding Lane Splitting in California
Have you been involved in a lane splitting accident in California? If so, you may qualify to seek damages. At eAccidents, our expert California personal injury lawyers can help you determine whether to proceed with your case or not, and will give you customized advice based on your situation. Call us today at 844-400-0123, fill out our contact form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation.