Is Lane-Splitting Safe?

By | March 15, 2016

We should always be conscious of the risks we take when operating cars and motorcycles. After all, we must always make an effort to equitably share the roads we travel, regardless of the vehicles we choose to get us to our destinations.

Motorcycles and cars have not had an easy co-existence, and with the ever-worsening traffic in California, the roads are filled with drivers looking to outsmart each other. Looking to “one-up” a fellow motorist is never a smart maneuver, especially when you have a few hundred horsepower and a couple of tons of steel around you. It’s even more unwise when your intended victim is a motorcycle. A bike is lighter and more maneuverable, but the rider is more physically vulnerable than the driver of a car.

To Split, Or Not to Split?

Lane splitting by motorcycles has been an accepted practice on European roads for decades, but here in the United States, it is considered to be very dangerous. However, a recent study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley suggests that lane-splitting is actually safer than we think:

  • Lane splitting can be achieved safely in traffic moving 50 miles an hour or less, if the motorcycle is not going more than 15 miles per hour over the current speed of traffic.
  • When compared to motorcycle riders who do not split lanes, lane-splitting riders are less likely to experience serious head injuries.
  • Lane-splitting motorcyclists are more likely to be wearing more comprehensive protective gear than those who don’t.
  • Lane-splitting motorcycle riders are less likely to drink and ride.

The statistics established by the study suggest that lane-splitting motorcyclists are more conscientious riders, and operate their bikes in a manner that is safer than riders who don’t split lanes. The information may appear contradictory, but it seems that riders who lane split generally have more aptitude and experience behind the handlebars than some of their fellow riders.

Must We Obey, Or Are We Guided?

In February, 2013, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) published a set of guidelines for motorcycle lane-splitting. The act was permissible as long as motorcycle riders operated their vehicles in a “safe and prudent” manner. We all know that what constitutes safe-and-prudent in theory, almost always doesn’t match what’s carried out in practice. About a year-and-a-half later, the guidelines went missing.

Now, California is attempting to institute a lane-splitting law based on the Berkeley study, claiming that, if done correctly, it will ease congestion on busy roadways. This has lead Oregon and Washington to consider similar laws, but not without controversy. Motorcycling enthusiasts are afraid a formal law might be too restrictive. But consider this: California would be the first state in which lane-splitting would be legal. California would once again lead the charge of progress on our overcrowded roads.

We owe it to ourselves and everyone we share the roads with, to keep safety first and foremost on our minds. It doesn’t matter if we have two wheels, or four wheels on the ground; everyone deserves to enjoy the ride, and arrive safely at our chosen destinations.

About the Author:

Bobby Saadian, Esq. is the Founding President and Managing Attorney at Wilshire Law Firm. Known as the “People’s Lawyer,” he primarily handles major accident and catastrophic injury cases of many varieties, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, and wrongful death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *