Have you ever been going down the road when you see something in the corner of your eye that shocks you just a bit? In many cases, it was a motorcycle. In many states across the US, motorcyclists are not allowed to do something called “lane splitting”. Lane splitting is when you drive down the middle of the road, in an attempt to go faster than the flow of traffic or to get around other vehicles. In California, this practice may soon become legal. In the state of California, there are many gray areas concerning whether it is legal to pass automobiles when on a motorcycle, but this isn’t the norm. Lane splitting is illegal in every other US state. While lane splitting remains in a gray area within California state law, that will change if Bill AB 51 is signed into law.
The bill was proposed after a private California citizen made a complaint, due to their moving violation that was attributed to lane splitting in 2015. Until that time, there were no specific laws on the books about whether it was legal. Rather, there were “guidelines” outlined in the highway patrol law books. In response to that complaint, the California Highway Patrol removed the guidelines, thinking that would be the end of the issue.
Soon after, assembly member Bill Quirk proposed that legislators put specific laws into the law code that would give motorcyclists the right to engage in legal, yet safe, lane splitting procedures. The bill was voted on, and passed with a 69 to 0 vote. It is supposed to be signed into law, and is supported by people on both sides of the political fence. However, it does have a handful of detractors.
Those who support the law believe that lane splitting is an excellent way to help with the traffic and congestion that is so problematic around California’s major highways. The bill’s opponents, however, see it as a recipe for disaster. Since motorcycles already come with so many additional risks for injury and death, allowing a motorcyclist to move on either side of the road simply doesn’t sound like a good idea to many motorcycle attorney Los Angeles groups. There are also those drivers who insist that it is unfair that motorcyclists be allowed to engage in behaviors that are not afforded to cars.
Over 4600 individuals died in 2013 alone due to riding motorcycles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that you have a 26% greater risk of being killed on a motorcycle than if you are involved in an automobile accident. The statistics about lane splitting in California showed that it did not increase the risk of accidents, as long as the motorcyclist did not exceed the other cars’ speed by ten more miles per hour. If that speed was increased, however, so were the risks associated with lane splitting.
If traffic is moving no more than thirty miles an hour, then the likelihood that lane splitting would lead to an increased risk to motorcyclists is greatly reduced. With that said, there is no question that when motorcyclists engage in lane splitting, they are increasing their risk of injury and accidents. People driving cars and trucks already have a hard time seeing nearby motorcycles. There is no way to see a motorcycle when it is passing on your side, especially if you aren’t expecting it.
The inherent risks associated with lane splitting, and with motorcycles in general, are probably the reason that lane splitting is illegal in most states. California, whose traffic laws are often lax compared to other states, will be the test pilot for lane splitting nationwide. If there is no increase in motorcycle accidents, then this could motivate people who ride motorcycles to lobby to have the laws changed across the nation. For now, however, it’s illegal to ride in the middle of the road to avoid traffic in every other state. Although very few motorcyclists engage in lane splitting, or are caught for doing it, it is still a law that should be followed.
Riding a motorcycle is a risky endeavor. If you enjoy riding, why not enjoy the ride? There is no reason to try to get to your destination any faster. Enjoy the open air and the wind in your hair, and take it easy to get there safely. Whether or not lane splitting is legal, you don’t want it to be deadly.