The California Highway Patrol has taken an unusual step of issuing a set of guidelines that affirm the legality of lane-splitting, a controversial practice among motorcyclists, but point out the circumstances when it is safe to split lanes. According to a news report in The Sacramento Bee, California is the only state in the country where lane-splitting is legal. Lane-splitting is when motorcyclists pass vehicles in adjacent lanes by driving between them. CHP officials are posting the first-ever written guidelines on the website as part of a broader highway safety initiative.
Increase in Motorcycle Collisions
CHP officials say this is a good time to release these guidelines because the number of motorcyclists is on the rise in California as is the number of motorcycle collisions. According to CHP’s statistics, 9,600 people were injured in 2010 motorcycle crashes, up 25 percent since 2000. According to the California’s Office of Traffic Safety 87 percent of California motorcycle riders reported that they split lanes. So far, it has been common knowledge that it is a legal practice, but no guidelines have been issued with regard to its safety.
Here are the CHP’s guidelines regarding how to split lanes safely:
• Ride between cars only if there is room and at no more than 10 mph faster than the vehicles you are passing.
• Do not attempt the maneuver at full freeway speeds or in any traffic going 30 mph or faster. The fastest a motorcyclist should be going, based on that guideline while lane-splitting, is 39 mph.
• Typically, it is safer to split between lanes one and two than other lanes.
• Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, as well as roadway, weather, and lighting conditions.
• Be alert and anticipate possible movements by other road users.
• Law enforcement officers can use their discretion to determine if a motorcyclist is lane-splitting unsafely and issue a citation.
It can be a dangerous practice for other drivers to stop motorcyclists from splitting lanes by blocking them. This could result in serious injury or even motorcycle crashes. As a California personal injury lawyer who represents victims of motorcycle accidents, I hope that these guidelines will give motorcyclists and motorists a better understanding traffic laws and safe driving practices.