Traffic in the large metropolitan parts of California like Los Angeles and San Francisco sucks no doubt about it.
Fortunately for California motorcycle riders – CA is the only State that allows what is known as ‘Lane Splitting’. This allows motorcyclists to ride legally in the space between two lines of vehicles during congested traffic conditions which in effect allows the creation of a new lane and allows motorcyclists to keep moving even when the rest of traffic is slow or stopped. The major benefit of lane splitting is reduced traffic congestion on California freeways; however, if motorcyclists or other drivers do not use safe driving practices, lane splitting can lead to an accident.
Many drivers will try to tell you lane splitting is unsafe, the “Hurt Report,” a well-known study on motorcycle accident causes, determined that lane splitting is actually safer for motorcyclists than remaining in bumper-to-bumper traffic. While no California law specifically allows lane splitting, the California Highway Patrol states that motorcycle lane splitting is allowed, but must be done in a “safe and prudent manner.”
An article featured in February 2009 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser, offers some great tips for safe lane splitting in California.
- Wait until both lanes are moving at similar speeds and enter the lane-splitting zone cautiously.
- Set a maximum speed for lane splitting; once traffic gets back up to 30 mph, move back into a lane.
- Try to anticipate when other drivers are going to change lanes. Watch for warning signs: drivers who are glancing at their mirrors, turning their wheels toward your lane, etc.
- If you get to a point where two vehicles seem too close together, wait for a chance to pass them safely.
**And stay within 10 mph of the traffic you are lane splitting with.**
The term ‘safe and prudent’ is up to interpretation by the police. “If you are in a lane-splitting accident and the report goes against you talk to an experienced motorcycle attorney immediately. A good motorcycle attorney can turn these reports around if you were, in fact, lane splitting cautiously.” Russ Brown of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
California is incredible with it’s annual motorcycle riding weather – ride safe!