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Is Lane Splitting Safe?

Torem & Associates

California is the only state that permits motorcyclists to split lanes. In all other states, lane splitting is illegal. Unfortunately, the state does not track data regarding lane-splitting motorcycle crashes. However, a proposed law will set guidelines for lane splitting that could make the maneuver safer, but without current data it may be hard to determine if the new law is effective in making lane splitting a safer practice.

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is also referred to as lane sharing. It refers to a motorcyclist sharing a lane with another vehicle. The rider maneuvers the motorcycle between vehicles that are stopped or moving slower than the rider. Most states consider the practice dangerous for riders and other vehicles on the road; therefore, the practice is illegal in all states except California.

Does Lane Splitting Cause Traffic Accidents?

In an effort to determine whether lane splitting contributed to traffic accidents, a 14-month study was conducted by the University of California, Berkeley. The study, at the request of the California Office of Traffic Safety, revealed that roughly 17 percent of motorcycle crashes involved lane splitting. Based on the data, the study’s authors determined that lane splitting is safe if the rider follows certain guidelines. However, the study did highlight several dangers associated with lane splitting. Of the riders surveyed, 80 percent lane split on freeways.

Guidelines for Lane Splitting

Assembly Bill 51 authorizes the California Highway Patrol and the DMV to develop safety guidelines for lane splitting in California. The process could take up to a year to complete. The legislation, authored by California Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), hopes that the guidelines will prevent motorcycle crashes.

The California Motorcyclist Safety Program offers these tips for safe lane splitting:

  • Do not travel more than 10 mph faster than the traffic.
  • The risk of accidents and crash severity increases when traffic is moving at 30 mph or faster. It is recommended to avoid lane splitting if traffic is moving at 30 mph or faster.
  • It appears to be safer to split lanes between the #1 and #2 lanes.
  • Avoid splitting lanes near freeway exits and on-ramps.
  • Avoid splitting on unfamiliar roads.
  • Leave enough distance between you and the other vehicles.
  • Avoid splitting lanes in inclement weather.
  • Always remain alert and be prepared to take evasive action, if necessary, to avoid a collision.
  • Avoid lingering in a vehicle’s blind spots.

You should not lane split:

  • Around or through curves;
  • Between large commercial vehicles, RVs, trucks, and busses;
  • At a toll booth;
  • If your vehicle cannot comfortably fit between the vehicles;
  • If you cannot see a way out as you are entering between vehicles; and,
  • If the road conditions are dangerous (i.e. gravel, uneven pavement, slippery roads, etc.).

Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Crash?

If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, contact our Fresno motorcycle accident attorney for a free case evaluation. We represent accident victims in Fresno, CA and the surrounding Central California Valley area.

Call Torem & Associates at (888) 500-5000 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Motorcycle crashes result in traumatic injuries that can have life-long consequences for you and for your family.


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