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6 Things to Know About Lane-Splitting

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When motorcycle riders pass between two lanes of traffic-lane-splitting-they're not passing illegally, at least not yet.

Last year, Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced a bill that would regulate lane-splitting, but then pulled it before it was submitted for a Senate vote. The bill would have allowed motorcycles to travel at speeds up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic, up to 50 mph.

The practice isn't as dangerous as it looks. A UC Berkeley study showed that of the California motorcycle accidents that involved lane-splitting, motorcyclists traveling at 50 mph or slower were less likely to suffer serious injury than motorcyclists, not lane-splitting or traveling at high speeds.

The study concluded that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than motorcycle riding in general, provided the rider travels the same or only slightly faster than the speed of moving traffic.

The California Highway Patrol published lane-splitting general guidelines on its website but has since taken them down. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles website, a petitioner complained that "there was no formal rulemaking process for the guidelines," among other objections. San Jose Mercury News reported that state officials worried that the guidelines could be construed as actual laws.

For the curious, and for those who want to ride safely on or around two-wheeled vehicles, here are the general guidelines:

1. Travel at a speed that's no more than 10 mph faster than other traffic.

2. Don't lane split when traffic moves 30 mph or faster. Danger increases as overall speed increases.

3. Split between the two furthest left lanes. CHP considers these lanes safer.

4. Consider the width of the lanes, the size of the vehicles, the weather, and the lighting conditions. "If you don't fit, don't split," the CHP guidelines said. Also, poor visibility makes it harder to see road hazards.

5. Be alert and anticipate movements by other road users. Don't linger in blind spots and watch for distracted drivers.

6. Follow the four R's of lane-splitting: Be Reasonable, Responsible, Respectful and aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions.

Read the full guidelines here. (CHP took them down, but they are not gone!)

If you've been injured in an auto or motorcycle accident, contact a personal injury attorney right away.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Bittinger, Flickr

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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