Is lane splitting legal in any state of the U.S.? While it’s only California that has legalized it, some states don’t explicitly state that lane splitting is illegal. Motorcycle laws in California have specific guidelines on lane splitting. Below is a list of answers to frequently asked questions on lane splitting in the Golden State. Read on and you might just find the answer to your question!
Is Lane Splitting Legal? | California Lane Splitting FAQ
In this article:
- What is lane splitting?
- How is it different from lane sharing and lane filtering?
- Is lane splitting legal in California?
- Where else is lane splitting legal?
- What are the general guidelines on lane splitting in California?
- What are the “Four Rs” of lane splitting?
- Even if it’s legal, are there times when I shouldn’t lane split?
- What are the advantages of lane splitting?
- What are the disadvantages of lane splitting?
- Who is held liable when a lane splitting accident happens?
- Is lane splitting safe?
1. What Is Lane Splitting?
According to California’s Assembly Bill No. 51, lane splitting is “driving a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
Lane splitting often happens on roads leading to an intersection or a traffic light. When the stoplight is on red, motorcycles move between the stopped car lanes and form their own lane in the middle of the two vehicles.
2. How Is It Different from Lane Sharing and Lane Filtering?
Lane filtering refers to motorcyclists weaving in and out of slow-moving traffic lanes to keep moving forward. On the other hand, lane sharing happens when two or more vehicles are riding side-by-side in a single lane. Examples of lane sharing are:
- When a driver is trying to overtake a slow-moving vehicle
- When a car that’s turning right moves towards the curb and leaves space on the left side of the road for the vehicles at the back to drive ahead
- When two motorcyclists are riding beside each other on a single lane
- When multiple cyclists are occupying the bike lane all at once
3. Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?
Yes, it is. The move to legalize lane splitting in California started in August 2016 when legislators filed and passed Assembly Bill No. 51. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) released a press statement to inform the public on this new traffic rule. Lane splitting has been legal in California since the start of 2017.
4. Where Else Is Lane Splitting Legal?
Within the U.S., it’s only the state of California where lane splitting is legal. It’s illegal to do so almost everywhere else. On the other hand, some states haven’t explicitly declared lane splitting to be illegal. In these states, Highway Patrol can still give you a ticket if they determine that your use of lane splitting could result in an accident.
5. What Are the General Guidelines on Lane Splitting in California?
Since lane splitting became legal in the Golden State, the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) under the CHP released guidelines on how to lane split properly and safely. These guidelines include:
- When motorcyclists are lane splitting, they must ride at a speed no faster than 10 mph greater than the cars on either side of them.
- Motorcyclists are highly discouraged from lane splitting when the speed of surrounding vehicles surpasses 30 mph.
- Lane splitting is safest when riding between the Number 1 and Number 2 lanes.
6. What are the “Four Rs” of Lane Splitting?
In addition to guidelines, the CMSP also released the “Four Rs of Lane Splitting.” These stand for the basic attitudes all motorcyclist must exhibit when they decide to lane split on the road.
Motorcyclists should be “reasonable” with their speed. As mentioned in the CMSPs guidelines, riders can’t go beyond 10 mph faster than the traffic flow around them. They should also be “responsible” for their own safety. Riders should also be “respectful” of other motorists on the road. Lastly, motorcyclists should always be aware of the conditions of the “roadways” before attempting to lane split.
7. Even If It’s Legal, Are There Times When I Shouldn’t Lane Split?
Though lane splitting can be convenient at times, there are instances when motorists are not allowed to lane split. These instances happen when:
- A motorcycle can’t fit between the two traffic lanes
- There’s a toll booth up ahead
- Traffic flow is moving faster than 30 mph
- The road is slippery, icy, uneven, or in other similar conditions
- There are a lot of curves and turns on the road
- The path is in between large vehicles like trucks, RVs, and buses
8. What Are the Advantages of Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is convenient for motorcyclists because it allows them to bypass slow-moving traffic. Other than benefitting motorcycle riders, lane splitting also benefits other motorists. For example, a 2012 study by Belgian research firm Transport & Mobility Leuven indicated that lane splitting keeps traffic from coming to a complete standstill. It also helps reduce road congestion, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions.
Lane splitting also makes the roads safer for all motorists. According to a 2011 study published by motorcycle safety consultant Steve Guderian, letting motorcycles drive beside cars instead of in front or behind them lowers the risk of rear-end collisions.
9. What Are the Disadvantages of Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting has its own risks and can be dangerous at times. For one, lane splitting places motorcyclists closer to cars. If the driver is not used to being so close to another moving vehicle, the rider can lose focus, go out of balance, and get into an accident. Motorcyclists also have to be extra vigilant so they can deal with cars that suddenly change lanes.
10. Who Is Held Liable When A Lane Splitting Accident Happens?
When a lane splitting accident occurs, the fault is usually attributed to the motorcyclist. As such, the motorcycle rider will be held liable for the damages as a result of the accident. But if the motorcyclist can show that the car driver contributed to the accident, the latter can also be held liable. It can also be a combination of motorist and cyclist error.
11. Is Lane Splitting Safe?
Lane splitting safety is a hotly debated topic in the state of California. Its practice may pose risks, but a 2015 study by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center (SafeTREC) at the University of California Berkeley revealed it isn’t as risky as many drivers would put it. The study concluded that lane splitting is relatively safe as long as motorcyclists do so by following these traffic conditions:
- They lane split only when traffic flow is moving at speeds less than 50 mph
- Their speed doesn’t exceed the speed of the cars by more than 15 mph
Want to know what others think about how safe lane splitting is? Watch the video below by 4 Wheel Online to know more:
Now you know the answer to the question, “is lane splitting legal in California?” Next time you’re on the road riding your motorcycle, make sure to apply the lane splitting guidelines allowable by law. This way, you can experience the convenience of lane splitting while minimizing the risks that come with it. If you’ve been involved in a lane splitting accident, don’t hesitate to give us a call so our experienced team of lawyers can help.
Should lane splitting be made legal in other states? Let us know what you think by writing in the comments section below!
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