California Passes Law Legalizing Lane Splitting

Posted on behalf of Arnold Law Firm on Dec 29, 2016 in Motorcycle Accidents

man riding motorcycleA new traffic law passed in California that legalizes lane splitting will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Lane splitting is a maneuver practiced by motorcyclists where the rider travels between two lanes of vehicles, usually during stand-still traffic.

California is the only state in the U.S. to allow lane splitting. The U.S. Department of Transportation views the driving practice as an escape route and a way for motorcyclists to avoid being in a motorcycle accident, rear-ended or trapped by other vehicles.

The new law states that California Highway Patrol (CHP) is allowed to create guidelines or suggestions of when lane splitting will be allowed based on the nature of the surrounding traffic.

Some of these suggestions include:

  • Motorcyclists should not drive more than 10 miles per hour faster than the flow of surrounding traffic.
  • Motorcyclists should not split lanes while traveling faster than 30 miles per hour.
  • Motorcyclists should not split lanes at merge points.
  • Motorcyclists should watch out for cars approaching in the distance.

While these guidelines were created by the CHP, they are only suggestions and motorcyclists cannot be issued a ticket for not following them.

However, drivers in cars and other vehicles traveling alongside a motorcycle can be issued a ticket for moving into the motorcyclists’ path to impede on their attempt to share the lane. CHP will consider this a violation of a lane change and will penalize the driver.

Although it is now considered a legal driving practice, lane splitting has been criticized by driving experts for causing safety concerns. Motorcyclists who engage in lane splitting have a higher chance of rear-ending vehicles as opposed to those who ride inside the lane.

Motorcyclists engaged in lane splitting are also more susceptible to being in an accident during weekdays, due to the high volume of traffic buildup during peak rush hours. Broadside accidents are also a concern as drivers in cars and other vehicles attempt to switch lanes without checking or failing to see an approaching motorcycle.

These dangers have led many to blame a recent increase in fatal motorcycle accidents on the practice of lane splitting. According to a report from the California’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System released in early 2016, motorcycle accident fatalities have increased 23 percent since 2010.

CHP and other California officials are warning drivers to look twice and check for motorcyclists approaching in their lane. It is up to motorcyclists to decide when lane splitting is appropriate and safe to attempt.

While lane splitting is now legal, motorcyclists are still in danger of suffering an injury in an accident. If you or someone you love is a motorcyclist who has been in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim.

Contact the Sacramento motorcycle accident attorneys at the Arnold Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss if your accident entitles compensation. We will not charge you any fees unless you receive a positive outcome in your case.

Call (916) 777-7777 to speak with an attorney after being in a motorcycle accident.

Back to Top