If you are the owner of a motorcycle, you are most likely well aware of the controversy surrounding lane-splitting. In fact, it’s very likely that the ability to slip between cars in times of congestion is one of the reasons you got your motorcycle in the first place. In a sense, your bike allows you to rise above the rules of the road.
At least that is what many non-motorcyclists think. Drivers often see lane-splitting as a way for riders to cheat—to break the rules and get ahead.
Riders see it differently. For them, it is a safety thing. Motorcyclists contend that this practice decreases the risk of overheating and improves visibility. When they stay in lane, drivers often do not see them, whereas on the line, they are more visible.
In fact, one study shows that, nationwide, lane-splitting could prevent 18,000 motorcycle-related freeway accidents and about 170 motorcyclist deaths annually.
The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration also shows that more than a quarter of motorcycle accidents result from motorcycles getting hit from behind while stuck in traffic jams—a statistic that proponents of lane-splitting contend would decrease if more motorcyclists were to ride between lanes in high traffic congestion.
California is the only state where lane-splitting is legal, and back in January, the California Highway Patrol, or CHP, posted guidelines and suggestions for the safest technique. For instance, it is highly recommended that motorcyclists only split at a maximum speed of 10 mph above the speed of surrounding traffic, and riders should not split at all at speeds above 30 mph.
After receiving backlash that they were encouraging such behavior, however, the CHP removed the information from their site.
Data shows that the prevailing opinion among drivers is that it is an unsafe practice, but as of today it remains a legal one. Drivers, be aware and respectful of motorcyclists squeezing by in tight places, and motorcyclists, be cognizant of the uncertainties and discomforts drivers have surrounding this practice. Know that lane-splitting is illegal in all other states and therefore punishable by law. If you have questions about motorcycle law or if you are involved in a motorcycle-related accident, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.