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Sep 01, 2019 | Motorcycle Accident

Lane Splitting: Is It Legal In California?

Lane Splitting: Is It Legal In California? Banner

The short answer is a resounding YES! Since 2016 California is the only state in the U.S. to specifically allow lane splitting. The practice was written into law under California Vehicle Code Section §21658.1.

Lane splitting in California has long been a controversial topic. Some drivers think it’s unsafe while other drivers say the opposite. Approximately 80% of all motorcycle drivers in California admit to lane splitting. Motorcyclists believe the practice keeps them safe by allowing them to weave in and out of traffic, thus avoiding rear end collisions caused by distracted drivers in stop and go traffic. In fact, research done by UC Berkeley confirms the practice of lane splitting makes it easier for motorcyclists to avoid injury.

Prior to 2016, lane splitting was neither legal nor illegal, as the law in California was silent as to the practice. However, in 2016 then Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB-51, which specifically allowed lane splitting. The bill authorized the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines for the safe practice of lane splitting. The CHP responded by issuing the following press release:

Lane splitting is a privilege enjoyed by California motorcyclists. With this freedom comes a greater responsibility for motorcyclists and drivers to share the road and create a safer highway environment.

In 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed California Assembly Bill 51, which defined motorcycle lane splitting and authorized the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop educational safety tips. Through a deliberative process and in consultation with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Department of Transportation, the Office of Traffic Safety, and several motorcycle safety organizations, the CHP has finalized lane splitting tips.

“Although lane splitting is legal in California, motorcyclists are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic,” said CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley. “Every rider has the ultimate responsibility for their own decision making and safety.”

The CHP issued the following guidelines regarding lane splitting:

  • Consider the total environment when you are lane splitting. (this includes the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, as well as current roadway, weather and lighting conditions).
  • Danger increases at higher speed differentials.
  • Danger increases as overall speed increases.
  • It is typically safer to split between the far left lanes than between the other lanes of traffic.
  • Avoid lane splitting next to large vehicles (big rigs, buses, motorhomes, etc.).
  • Riding on the shoulder is illegal; it is not considered lane splitting.
  • Be visible—Avoid remaining in the blind spots of other vehicles or lingering between vehicles.
  • Help drivers see you by wearing brightly colored/reflective protective gear and using high beams during daylight.

If you drive a motorcycle, it is important to follow these guidelines and use good judgment to keep yourself safe on the road. If you’re involved in an accident while lane splitting, motorists can no longer claim the accident was solely your responsibility based on this factor alone. However, it is imperative to follow the law to ensure that you are not deemed partially at-fault for the accident.

Motorcycles and mopeds are in abundant use in West Hollywood and the surrounding areas of Hollywood and greater Los Angeles. They allow us to buzz around the city and avoid terrible traffic conditions. Motorcycles also help to decrease traffic congestion.

However, a word of caution: I often receive calls from injured motorcyclists who were lane splitting, and in almost every situation an issue arises as to who is responsible for the accident. For this reason, it is also a good idea to have a camera on either your motorcycle or helmet. Doing so will allow you to prove that you were not at fault for the accident.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important that you speak with an attorney who is well versed in the law and who handles motorcycle accidents on a regular basis. Unlike standard auto accidents, motorcycle involved accidents have several specific quicks that need to be nuanced by an experienced attorney.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, give the Law Office of Craig Charles a call at 424-343-0660 for a free, no cost, no obligation consultation. The Law Office of Craig Charles is located on the Sunset Strip in the heart of West Hollywood and is an LGBT friendly and affirming law office.

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