Is Lane Splitting Legal for California Motorcyclists?

Most California motorists are well-acquainted with the practice of lane splitting, where a motorcyclist drives on the lines between rows of stopped or slow-moving cars. Although lane splitting was still a relatively common sight here prior to its legalization in 2017, it’s now virtually impossible to travel on the highway without seeing an example of lane splitting.

Whether you’re an ardent motorcyclist or a concerned driver, it’s important to understand the rules of the road, and how they relate to lane splitting. If you do become injured in a motorcycle lane splitting accident in the Bay Area, you can always call our experienced team at Habbas & Associates for the skilled legal assistance you need.

In this post, we’ll discuss what the law says about the practice of lane splitting – and how you can perform this maneuver safely while riding a motorcycle.

Legal Recognition for Lane Splitting

Most of the other U.S. states have strict rules about lane splitting, but in California, the law has always taken a more nuanced approach. Because of heavy traffic throughout major metropolitan areas like LA and San Francisco, legislators were unwilling to forbid lane splitting altogether – but they were also hesitant to make it officially legal.

However, with the unanimous passing of SB-51 in 2017, lane splitting became completely legal in California. Of course, the California Highway Patrol was also instructed to develop clear safety guidelines, and to continue collaborating with the DMV and DOT as new data is collected on the practice.

Lane Splitting Safety Guidelines

While many people believe that lane splitting is too dangerous for American roadways, a study performed at UC Berkeley in 2013 showed that it can actually be safer for motorcycle riders in certain situations, particularly when there is no other escape route available. Of course, the researchers found that it was still only safe at speeds below 50 mph, and that motorcyclists should not be driving more than 15 mph above other drivers on the road.

If you decide to split lanes, here are some of the best ways to stay safe and protect other drivers:

  • Remember that increasing your speed always increases your chance of getting into a serious accident.
  • Stay alert to the size of other vehicles, as well as the width of the lanes. Lane size and traffic volume can change rapidly in California, so adjust accordingly.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective gear. It can be hard for drivers to spot you while lane splitting, so it’s doubly important to make yourself visible.
  • The lanes furthest to the left are the safest ones, while highway exits and ramps are the most dangerous to split lanes.
  • If you can’t see a way out of a space or don’t know if you can fit into a given area, don’t try to split lanes!

Were you injured in a motorcycle or motor vehicle accident in San Jose? Call (888) 387-4053 to get in touch with our qualified lawyers at Habbas & Associates!

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