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Preventing Motorcycle Accidents: Lane Splitting in California

 Posted on June 06,2016 in Motorcycle Accidents

San Jose personal injury attorneyThe spring and summer months are upon us in beautiful California. The days get longer and of course warmer. With the change in weather comes the inevitable urge for motorcyclists to get out and ride. As always, motorists need to be cautious of each other and make a conscientious effort to watch for motorcycles. It may be easier for you to see a traditional four-wheeled vehicle and predict their driving habits because you may be more familiar with them. Yet, motorcycles are present and have traffic capabilities that other vehicles do not, such as lane splitting. While these actions are perfectly legal and have many benefits, there are driving habits that may make lane splitting hazardous for our motorcyclists.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is the name given to the act of a motorcyclist maneuvering their motorcycle between two lanes of traffic driving in the same direction. Its purpose is to overtake or pass slower moving or stopped traffic. It is also known as “lane sharing”, “white lining”, “filtering” or “stripe riding”. These names are indicative of the motorcycle actually driving on or near the painted white line that separates two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.

Benefits of Allowing Lane Splitting

Those who are not familiar with motorcycle rules and regulations may have a hard time immediately understanding how this would be more beneficial than dangerous. There are several reasons why lane splitting is not outlawed in California, including that it:

  • Relieves traffic congestion in times of slow moving or stopped traffic;
  • During slowed or stopped traffic situations, it aids the motorcyclist in protecting themselves, rather than being sandwiched between a car in front of and behind them, they are safely in the lateral gap between two cars; and
  • Aids in motorcyclist safety because they are less likely to be struck from behind sustaining torso and head injuries.

Potential Dangers

California is one of the only states in the United States that permits lane splitting, and a guideline was released by the California Highway Patrol back in 2013. However, there are a few dangers that arise from the action, even with the most seasoned of motorcyclist. Most hazards arise from other vehicles on the road rather than the motorcyclist. Potential threats include:

  • Distracted driving: This is a huge risk to everyone involved. If a driver is distracted, they are less likely to see a driver coming up next to them;
  • Unsafe lane changes: Improper use of a turn signal or failure to use it at all does not allow another driver ample time to react to the unexpected movement of a vehicle. Also included in this is changing lanes without looking; and
  • Lane encroachment: This occurs when a driver swerves over into the next lane going near or over the center line and then swerves back.

Safe Practice Guidelines

As mentioned before, the California Highway Patrol put out a set of guidelines to follow to help make the practice of lane splitting safer for everyone on the roadway. If you choose to split lanes, protocols that may be useful in avoiding potential accidents include:

  • Only split between the two left-most traffic lanes;
  • Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 MPH faster than the other vehicles;
  • Avoid lane splitting if traffic is travelling faster than 30 MPH;
  • Only split when there is ample space between the lines of cars;
  • Consider all factors when you are splitting, including size of vehicles, width of the roadway, weather and road conditions;
  • Use a carpool lane if available, even if you are solo, because of the restrictive nature of this lane, there is typically less traffic on these lanes and this action is allowed everywhere in the United States;
  • Be alert and anticipate potential movement by other drivers; and
  • Avoid switching between lanes with vehicles traveling at substantially different speeds, as drivers in the slow lane often jump into the faster lane without notice.

If you are the driver of a motorcycle and have been involved in a traffic incident while lane splitting, you may have sustained serious injuries and other damages. You may be having difficulty receiving assistance from the driver of the other vehicle and/or the insurance company involved. An experienced attorney can assist you in getting the help you deserve. Attorney John J. Garvey, III has over 45 years of personal injury litigation experience that can effectively be used in your situation. If you would like to speak to a San Jose motorcycle accident attorney, contact us today at 408-293-7777 for your free initial consultation.



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