California will continue to be the only state in the nation that does not ban “lane splitting” for motorcyclists. The California Highway Patrol recently announced that it will not be issuing or enforcing guidelines on the practice that it originally released last year.
We’ve all seen lane splitting even if we didn’t know there was a term for it. A motorcyclist engages in “lane splitting” when he drives the motorcycle between two lanes of traffic that are going in the same direction. When drivers talk about lane splitting, they are often referring to when a motorcyclist passes slow or stopped vehicles by driving between the lanes. For many drivers who have never been on a motorcycle, this is one of the scariest hazards facing them on the highway.
Sixty-two percent of motorcyclists say that they engage in lane splitting on highways. California is the only state that does prohibit lane splitting. More motorcyclists die in traffic accidents in California than drivers of cars.
Last year the Highway Patrol issued written guidelines in which they advised motorcyclists not to travel at speeds more than 10 miles per hour faster than traffic. Motorcyclists were also advised not lane split when traffic was moving at a speed of more than 30 miles per hour. When someone complained that the Highway Patrol did not go through the proper rule-making process, the agency pulled the guidelines from its website. Even though they were only voluntary guidelines, and thus violating them could not lead to a ticket, the Highway Patrol also decided not to issue or enforce the guidelines.
But motorcyclists have long contended that lane splitting is not only not an actual hazard, but it is actually safe as it protects them from being rear-ended in heavy traffic. And a new study gives some support to their claim.
The Highway Patrol and California Office of Traffic Safety, along with University of California Berkeley researchers, looked at data collected by 80 law enforcement agencies in California over a one-year period.
They study showed that lane splitting is no more hazardous than motorcycling in general. However, this is only true when the motorcyclist is travelling at the same speed as other vehicles on the road. When motorcyclists sped or travelled faster than the speed of traffic, is when the researchers saw more accidents.
If you’ve recently received a ticket while lane splitting or driving your motorcycle on a California highway, contact a California traffic lawyer immediately.