California Becomes First State to Legalize Lane Splitting
After years of debate surrounding whether or not the practice of motorcyclist lane splitting should be legalized, Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state assembly bill which formally legalizes the practice. Debate over whether or not the practice is safe for motorcycles and passenger vehicles alike remains ongoing.
Lane splitting has long occupied a grey zone between being considered legal and illegal. For years, the California Highway Patrol has not punished the practice, and for a brief time, the CHP published guidelines on safe lane-splitting practices until complaints from the public forced them to stop. The original version of the newly-passed law had restrictions on the speed at which motorcycles could travel while lane-splitting; specifically, bikes would not be able to travel faster than 50 mph while splitting lanes, and would not be able to pass lanes of traffic while going more than 15 mph faster than other vehicles. However, after motorcycle rights groups complained about the restrictions, they were removed. The law currently calls for the CHP, alongside the DMV, to develop “educational guidelines” on lane-splitting, but not to adopt strict rules governing the practice.
Lane-splitting has not received a great deal of attention from safety researchers, since the practice is not widely legal. However, one study conducted in 2013 by UC Berkeley researchers took an exhaustive look at the practice to determine whether it was as unsafe as passenger vehicle drivers believed, or whether the motorcyclists who touted it as a safety measure were right. The study discovered that over 60% of California motorcyclists split lanes. The study found that, overall, motorcyclists weren’t more at risk of injury from splitting lanes, so long as they kept their speed to within 10 miles of the speed of neighboring traffic. In a follow-up to the 2013 study, the researchers discovered that, among the nearly-6,000 accidents involving motorcycles that occurred between June 2012 and August 2013, 17% involved lane-splitting. While lane-splitting motorcyclists were more likely to be involved in a collision during rush hour, they were less likely to be injured, due to the fact that they tended to wear safer helmets and travel at lower speeds.
If you have been hurt in an automobile or motorcycle accident in Southern California, get help seeking the compensation you’re owed for your injuries by contacting the determined and knowledgeable Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy for a free consultation on your case, at 310-553-6630.