California is the only state that permits motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting, a practice that involves riding along the white center line during heavy traffic. While lane splitting is considered legal, it carries some potential safety and liability risks for motorcyclists.
The California Highway Patrol considers lane splitting to be legal so long as it's done in a "safe and prudent" manner. However, neither the CHP nor the California Department of Motor Vehicles have established any standard definition as to what constitutes safe and prudent behavior. This means that when a motorcycle accident occurs involving lane splitting, it's often up to individual law enforcement officers to determine whether the motorcyclist was acting responsibly.
Is lane splitting safe?
Lane splitting allows motorcyclists to negotiate heavy traffic without adding to congestion. It also helps them to avoid riding directly in the path of vehicle emissions.
There is no definitive research on whether lane splitting is more or less dangerous to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists may be less susceptible to rear-end collisions since they are not riding directly in front of or behind another vehicle, however, there is still the risk of a collision caused by a driver making an abrupt turn or lane change into the motorcyclist's path.
Who is at fault in a lane splitting accident?
When a motorcycle accident occurs that involves lane splitting, the circumstances of the accident typically determine who is at fault. For example, if you're driving safely and within the speed limit and another driver pulls out in front of you without warning, the other person will likely be held liable. However, if you're lane splitting and driving at high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic or engaging in other reckless or careless behavior, law enforcement may find you partly or fully responsible if an accident occurs.
How can I avoid a lane splitting accident?
California motorcyclists can avoid being involved in an accident while lane splitting by following these simple safety tips.
- Stay alert at all times and be aware of other vehicles
- Wear reflective clothing if riding at night and always wear protective safety gear, including a helmet
- Use caution when attempting to lane split, taking into account the speed of the other vehicles as you move out of traffic
- Be aware of blind spots and pay attention for behavior that could signal a driver is about to change lanes
- Drive within the speed limit and avoid sudden acceleration
- Use caution when rejoining the flow of traffic and maintain speed that is consistent with the vehicles around you
While the legality of lane splitting in California is undisputed, its safety continues to be a source of debate. If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident that you believe was caused by another driver's negligence, you may have grounds for an injury claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist you in protecting your legal rights.
Nadrich & Cohen, LLP is a national law firm specializing in representing motorcycle accident victims in the San Diego area and other locations throughout California. No-cost, no-obligation initial case evaluations are available by calling 1-800-718-4658. All cases are accepted on a contingency basis, meaning there is never a fee unless a settlement is recovered on your behalf.
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