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Lane splitting is legal in California, but not always safe

As California motorcyclists know, lane splitting is legal in our state. While the practice has been long accepted, it officially became legal in 2016. This allowed the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop and publish safety guidelines for it.

Lane splitting is defined under the law as “driving a motorcycle…between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” Most motorcyclists take advantage of the law, particularly on gridlocked freeways.

Drivers’ attitudes toward lane splitting can be dangerous

Unfortunately, a lot of drivers don’t realize that it’s legal. Even if they know it is, they don’t like it. They hate seeing a motorcyclist disappear ahead of them when they’re stuck in the same spot for what seems like an eternity. Motorcyclists argue, however, that lane splitting actually reduces traffic gridlock.

It’s also disconcerting — and dangerous — to have a biker appear seemingly out of nowhere. The “Lane Splitting Safety Tips” published by the CHP are intended to help motorcyclists and drivers co-exist safely.

Safety tips from the CHP

The CHP warns that “Lane splitting can be extremely dangerous and extreme caution should be exercised.” It also notes that only experienced riders should engage in lane splitting and that as speed increases, so does the danger.

Among the CHP’s safety tips for motorcyclists are the following:

  • Avoid the practice when you’re next to a large vehicle like a truck, recreational vehicle or bus.
  • Only lane split in the far left lanes.
  • Keep out of drivers’ blind spots.

Of course, drivers of vehicles need to exercise caution as well. That means not changing lanes without signaling and looking over their shoulder as well as in their mirrors. It also means not doing anything to try to impede a motorcyclist who lane splits in front of them.

Crashes between motorcycles and vehicles can cause serious – and too often fatal – injuries for the people on the motorcycle. If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash caused by a negligent or reckless driver, make sure you seek the compensation you need and are entitled to get.