Motorcycle lane splitting is a practice that has been common on roads and highways as long as there have been motorcycles and traffic. California has become the only state in the U.S. that has made lane splitting legal. California Vehicle Code 21658.1 defines lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads and highways.” This section became effective Jan.1, 2017.
Lane splitting has been a practice of contention long before it became legal. Since California added it to the vehicle code, the focus on safety issues has only become more intense.
Many motorists perceive motorcycle lane splitting, AKA white lining, lane sharing or filtering, as a dangerous practice which imposes an extra burden of caution. Motorcyclists believe allowing lane splitting increases their safety by reducing the risk of being struck from behind while slowed or stopped in traffic.
To better educate both passenger vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders on lane splitting safety, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has issued a set of general guidelines through their California Motorcycle Safety Program. Motorcyclists who choose to lane split should follow these guidelines:
· Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 mph faster than traffic. Danger increases at higher speed differentials. A slower speed allows for better reaction time to lane changing vehicles or other hazards
· Avoid splitting lanes if traffic is moving 30 mph or faster. In other words if your speedometer reads 30 mph or greater do not split lanes. At only 20 mph a rider will travel 30 to 60 feet before reacting to a potential hazard. That distance increases with every mph faster.
· It is typically safer to split the #1 and #2 (furthest left) lanes. Other drivers are more accustomed to riders splitting the outside lanes. Avoid splitting lanes near freeway exits and off ramps where sudden lane changes are likely to occur.
· Be aware of the total environment. This includes the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather and lighting conditions. Some lanes are so narrow or vehicles so wide they leave little room to pass safely. The rule to remember is: if you can’t fit, don’t split.
· Avoid splitting on unfamiliar roads. Beware of roads with seams in the pavement, loose gravel, water etc.
· Help other drivers to see you. Use daylights and wear bright colors. Avoid lane splitting in rain, at dusk or after dark.
· Expect possible sudden movements by other road users. Always be aware of what other vehicles are doing. Beware of distracted, impaired or inattentive drivers. Avoid lingering in blind spots. Never weave back and forth.
The Four R’s of Land Splitting by the CMSP
Be Reasonable, be Responsible, be Respectful, be aware of Roadway and traffic conditions.
“Every rider is responsible for his or her own personal decision making and safety,” according to the CMSP. “Riders must be conscious of reducing crash risk at all times.”
When You Should Never Lane Split According to the CMSP
– If you can’t fit
– At a toll booth
– If traffic is moving too fast or unpredictable
– If dangerous road conditions exist such as construction, hazardous road surface, metal grates, uneven pavement etc.
– If you can’t see a way out of a space you are entering
– Between trucks, buses, RV’s and other vehicles
– Around or through curves
– If you are not fully alert
– If you are unable to react to changing conditions instantaneously
– If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation.
The CMSP states: “With respect to possible law enforcement action, keep in mind that it will be up to the discretion of the Law Enforcement Officer to determine if riding behavior while lane splitting is or was safe and prudent.”
If You Are Involved in a California Motorcycle Lane Splitting Accident
The guidelines above are not guaranteed to keep you safe. However, if you are injured in a California motorcycle lane splitting accident and not using reasonable safety, any case you have may be harder to support.
If you are injured in any motorcycle accident it is wise to consult an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer to evaluate your case. The lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is legally responsible for your injuries and damage to you motorcycle.
Vititoe Law Group has helped countless victims of California motorcycle accidents, recovering substantial amounts in cash awards. If you or someone you care about was injured or if a loved one was lost, contact Vititoe Law Group for a free consultation with a skilled motorcycle accident attorney.