What Is Lane Splitting In California?

Oct 20, 20 by Ticket Snipers

What Is Lane Splitting In California?

If you drive in California then you must have had a motorcycle rider drive between you and another car.

Lane splitting is surprisingly a common problem in the state. According to reports, about 80 percent of riders report frequently or occasionally lane splitting.

In this article, we’ll explain the concept of lane splitting and what you need to be aware of.

Let’s start:

What is Lane Splitting?

Wikipedia defines lane splitting as riding a motorcycle or bike between “lanes or rows of slow moving or stopped traffic moving in the same direction.”

Also known as stripe-riding and whitelining, riders use this technique to save time and bypass traffic congestion.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) published guidelines on motorcycle lane-splitting for experienced riders. In the event of a collision, determining liability is strictly case-by-case.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Lane splitting is illegal in all US states except for California, where it became legal in 2016.

Former governor, Jerry Brown, signed a bill in August 2016 that made lane splitting legal in the state.

There are many research reports that show that lane splitting is safe and effective in saving time. However, one has to be careful when lane splitting as not being careful can result in accidents.

California Assembly Bill 51 cleared up the air regarding the situation. There was a gray area as the practice wasn’t considered illegal, however, there was a lot of uncertainty over authority to publish lane splitting safety guidelines.

Here’s what the law says:

(b) The California Department of Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.

(c) In developing the guidelines pursuant to this section, the department shall consult with agencies and organizations with an interest in road safety and motorcycle behavior, including, but not limited to, all of the following:

(1) The Department of Motor Vehicles

(2) The Department of Transportation

(3) The Office of Traffic Safety

(4) A motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.

California Lane Splitting – Safety Guidelines

Motorcyclists should follow these guidelines to be on the safe side:

  • Do not go faster than 10 MPH when compared to other traffic on the road.

This is because the faster you are, the riskier it gets. A speed differential of not more than 10MPH allows a competent and alert rider to clearly identify potential dangers and react to dangerous situations.

  • Do not lane split when the traffic is going at a speed of 30 MPH or higher.

You have to consider not only your speed but also the speed of other drivers and riders on the road because the fault of one person can cause damage to others.

When you or other drivers are faster, you would have less time to react to dangerous situations, which can result in a serious accident. It is important to remember that stopping distance and braking depend on a number of factors including the machine, the competency of the rider, the environment, etc.

Also, crashes that occur at fast speeds tend to cause more damage.

  • Make sure to pay attention to the environment

You have to consider not just your speed and the speed of other drivers but environmental elements as well including the width of the lanes, weather, lighting conditions, size of surrounding vehicles, and roadway.

Not all lanes are the same size, some are wider than others. Pick a lane that offers you enough space to move safely. Also, don’t select a lane just because it appears wide.

Look at the vehicles as some are bigger than others. Stay away from wide trucks and big vehicles and have a good look at your motorcycle. Don’t enter a lane if it contains bags, wide bars, and fairing as such motorbikes require more space.

We also suggest to not split on roads that are unfamiliar. Surprising road conditions and turns can result in accidents.

Have a good look at the road including seams as they can be dangerous. Don’t split if it’s too dark. You must be able to see very clearly as darkness and weather conditions such as rain and snow can make it hard for riders to see.

If you split a lot then try to wear clothes that are bright so that you’re clearly visible.

  • Try to split between the first and second lines only

Drivers are used to motorcycles splitting between the first and second lanes (furthest left). They don’t usually expect motorcyclists to choose other lanes, which is why it is best that you choose the lines that they expect you to select.

Also, avoid splitting in lanes that are close to exits and ramps. Moreover, you should also pay attention to other riders. Stay away from lanes where there are other riders because cars may move to make space for the other rider, which may cause you to get stuck.

  • Always be alert on the road

Be very alert and anticipate the actions of others on the road. You have to be fully aware of what others around you up to but without losing your focus.

React according to the changes on the road. If a gap or space opens up then get ready to react accordingly. You might have to take evasive actions if a big vehicle changes lanes. But, do not be the rider that constantly scans for an opportunity. Changing lanes every few minutes can be a risky move.

Do not make the mistake of weaving between lanes or choosing to ride in a blindspot. Remember that distracted or inattentive drivers can result in accidents. Also, don’t ride if you’re impaired in any way.

Remember that lane splitting isn’t the same as riding in the shoulder lane. The latter is still illegal in California.

California Highway Patrol has developed these line splitting safety guidelines for motorists and motorcyclists. It’s important for riders to be aware of safety guidelines and follow them.

Accidents Due to Lane Splitting – Who is Liable

As mentioned earlier, lane splitting is believed to be a safe option, but there can still be accidents.

Not many drivers and riders in California are aware of lane splitting laws as the practice had been illegal in the state for a long period of time. Nonetheless, now that it is legal, more people are making use of the practice to quickly get through busy roads and reach their destination.

The problem is that not all riders or drivers are careful, which is why accidents do happen. The law, unfortunately, is a little confusing and it can be very difficult to find and prove the liability.

There’s no formal lane splitting law in the state; however, since lane splitting isn’t prohibited in California, the motorcycle rider isn’t automatically considered to be at-fault, which is typically the situation in other countries. However, there are some situations where the law is straightforward:

  • If a motorcyclist is found to be riding unsafely then it is considered his or her fault.
  • It’s considered the fault of the driver if the motorcyclist involved in an accident was found to be riding safely.

The main factor is if the rider was splitting safely or not. Your legal expert can help prove your innocence if you were involved in a lane splitting case.

Guidelines discussed above can be useful when deciding if a rider was riding safely or not.

Is Lane Splitting a Safe Practice?

As mentioned earlier, lane splitting is considered safe. The California Office of Traffic Safety appears to be in favor of lane splitting as a 2013 study conducted by the organization proved that lane splitting can help reduce road accidents.

Here are some of the major findings of the research:

  • There were a total of 5,969 motorcycle crashes in California during the period
  • A total of these 997 crashes (17 percent) involved lane splitting

Here’s what the report concluded:

Lane-splitting appears to be a relatively safe motorcycle riding strategy if done in traffic moving at 50 MPH or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 MPH.”

While it encouraged lane splitting, it did come with a warning:

Lane-splitting riders often put themselves closer to other vehicles than they otherwise would. This proximity reduces the time riders have to identify and react to changes in the behaviors of other motorists.

According to experts, it’s best to avoid lane splitting if:

  • You cannot fit
  • You’re at a toll booth
  • Traffic is unpredictable or too fast
  • Road conditions are poor
  • You’re not able to see a way out
  • There are big vehicles like RVs and trucks
  • You aren’t fully alert
  • There are a lot of curves
  • You’re not able to quickly react to changing conditions
  • You feel uncomfortable

The CMSP states: “With respect to possible law enforcement action, keep in mind that it will be up to the discretion of the Law Enforcement Officer to determine if riding behavior while lane splitting is or was safe and prudent.

Lane Splitting and Risks

The decision to make lane splitting legal in California was quite a controversial one, especially since it’s still illegal in every other state.

Many experts and politicians often debate about the risks of lane splitting. While it’s generally considered safe, lane splitting can result in accidents and mishaps if the rider and other drivers on the road are not careful enough.

Accidents involving motorcycles can be quite horrific because the rider has little to no protection. Some of the most common injuries motorcyclists suffer due to accidents involve broken bones, brain damage, and internal bruising.

Moreover, it can also damage other assets on the road. This is why some drivers are against the legalization of lane splitting.

Lane Splitting in California: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions related to lane splitting in California:

Why is lane splitting not legal in other states?

Lane splitting isn’t legal in other states because there’s no consensus on the topic. A large number of drivers and politicians believe that lane splitting is unsafe and can result in more accidents. However, things appear to be changing as riders are asking for more states to reconsider their decision and to make lane splitting legal.
You will not get fined for lane splitting in California unless it results in a mishap. Lane splitting itself isn’t a crime in the state but being negligent is.

Can I get fined for lane splitting in California?

You will not get fined for lane splitting in California unless it results in a mishap. Lane splitting itself isn’t a crime in the state but being negligent is.

Can lane splitting result in accidents?

While lane splitting is legal, you have to be careful because it can result in accidents if you turn to a lane that’s too thin or if the vehicles are big.

It’s important to follow all the guidelines discussed above so that the risk is minimized.

Who is considered responsible if lane splitting results in an accident in California?

Lane splitting cases can be complicated as a liability in these cases isn’t always clear-cut.

What if I get a lane splitting ticket in California?

You will not get a lane splitting ticket in California; however, you can get a ticket for negligent driving, speeding, etc., due to lane splitting.

In such a scenario, you will have two options, to fight the ticket or pay the fine. Be careful about the option you choose as neglecting your ticket can end up costing more than you think.

Will I Need Legal Assistance?

You will need to hire some help if you decide to go to court and fight your case. Lane splitting cases can be complicated as each circumstance requires a thorough review to determine the party at fault and find ways to prove your innocence.