California motorists are not strangers to the practice of lane splitting. Think back to the last few times you were navigating a significant flow of traffic on one of the Golden State’s many crowded freeways. At any point, did you encounter a motorcycle? Did that motorcycle happen to travel between you and the vehicle next to you, even though the vehicle next to you was already traveling in the next lane over? This practice is referred to as lane splitting.
For decades, the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement officers have implicitly allowed motorcyclists to lane split, especially under certain conditions. In fact, a great deal of controversy was created several months ago when literature was published on safe lane splitting practices because lane splitting is not technically legal in California or anywhere else in the U.S. That’s right… lane splitting is not explicitly legal in California.
However, this legal reality could be changing very soon. A study recently authored by experts at the University of California – Berkeley illustrates that lane splitting is actually a safer practice than requiring motorcyclists to stop in every kind of heavy traffic. According to the study, motorcyclists who stop in traffic are at a much higher risk of being rear-ended than motorcyclists who lane split in heavy traffic.
A bill that would explicitly allow lane splitting under certain conditions has passed the California Assembly. If the Senate passes the bill, motorcyclists will be legally allowed to lane split provided that they do not exceed 50 mph. They must also refrain from going more than 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic around them if traffic is slower than 35 mph.
Source: Findlaw Injured, “Lane Splitting in California May Soon be Legal,” Le Trinh, May 29, 2015