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Is lane splitting legal in California and is it safe?

The answer to the first part of this question is yes; motorcycle riders are permitted to engage in lane splitting in California. However, as with other traffic-related laws, there are right ways and wrong ways to use these maneuvers. When lane splitting is done correctly, it can reduce motorcycle accidents.

If you are not certain, lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist travels between stopped or slow-moving traffic. When a motorcycle moves between lanes to the head of the traffic at a stop signal, it is also lane splitting.

According to the CHP (California Highway Patrol), lane splitting is safe for all motorists as long as cyclists adhere to the guidelines below.

-- Travel at no more than 10 mph faster than other motor vehicles.

-- Avoid lane splitting when traffic is flowing at 30 mph or faster.

-- It is safest to split between the two left lanes instead of lanes on the right.

-- Consider the full environment when splitting lanes including weather, lane width, surrounding vehicles and many other factors.

-- Be alert for changing conditions.

A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley revealed several surprising results that showed lane splitting was often safer for cyclists than simply sitting and waiting in congested traffic. The study showed that motorcycle accidents in which a cycle is struck from behind were less likely to happen if the rider engaged in lane splitting. The study also revealed that lane splitting motorcyclists were less likely to suffer head injuries, torso injuries and fatal injuries should a motorcycle accident occur.

To sum up, researchers believe that lane splitting can reduce motorcycle accidents by limiting a cyclist's exposure to start-and-stop traffic patterns. This will not only keep motorcycle riders safer, it will reduce traffic hazards for other motorists as well.

Please consider speaking with an attorney for advice on your case if you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Source: Cycle World, "UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting Motorcyclists are Safer in Traffic," accessed May 25, 2017

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