Chances are very good that as you’ve sat in one of the innumerable traffic jams here in Southern California that you’ve seen motorcycles navigating their way between the rows of stopped vehicles, a practice known as lane-splitting.
While your automatic reaction might be to think the practice is unsafe and even illegal, this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, public safety officials have gone out of their way to raise public awareness about the legality of lane-splitting, which statistics show currently sits at only about 61 percent.
Some of this confusion among motorists concerning the legality of lane-splitting may stem from the fact that while the practice is technically legal, there is actually no law regulating it.
This is poised to change, however, as state lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would expressly allow lane-splitting when traffic is moving at a speed of less than 30 miles-per-hour and the motorcyclist maintains a speed of less than ten miles-per-hour.
As for the widespread belief that lane-splitting is unsafe, it’s worth noting that a study performed by the California Office of Traffic Safety just last year determined:
- Motorcyclists were far less likely to suffer serious personal injuries or even die in accidents involving lane-splitting than they were other types of bike crashes
- Motorcyclists’ injury rates remained low when lane-splitting was performed at a speed of less than 10 miles-per-hour in slow traffic conditions.
“Lane-splitting, when done in a safe and prudent manner, is no more dangerous than regular motorcycling,” said an OTS official.
What makes all of this so significant is that lawmakers in several other states — Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington — are now following California’s lead and considering their own lane-splitting laws, recognizing how it can help keep traffic moving and eliminate the risk of motorcyclists being rear-ended while stopped in traffic.
It will be interesting to see what transpires both here and in these other states regarding lane-splitting legislation.
What are your thoughts on lane-splitting? Do you embrace the idea? Do you find it unsafe?