What motorcycle drivers need to know about lane splitting

Motorcycle Accidents,Our Blog | March 30, 2018

There are a lot of little perks that come with riding a motorcycle. Better gas mileage is one of them. The ability to move through even very congested traffic is another.

People on motorcycles can maneuver between vehicles, even when traffic has come to a complete stop all around them. The smaller, two-wheeled vehicles can slip into the extra space each lane has to offer. That is why people call it lane splitting. It is also known as lane sharing or filtering.

California guidelines

Currently, California law does not explicitly address the practice of lane splitting. There were guidelines available from the California Department of Motor Vehicles at one time, but they have since taken them down after a complaint was received.

Lane sharing practices for motorcyclists

While California law neither prohibits nor allows the practice of lane sharing, motorcycle drivers should treat this practice like the legally gray area it is. Focus on safety above everything else, including allowing the extra time it may take to reach the destination.

Keep your speed reasonable for the road you’re on. If traffic has come to a standstill and you are moving through it, keep your speed slow enough to stop if conditions change suddenly. Watch every vehicle you move past carefully. Drivers may not notice you and could try to change lanes when you are in their direct path. This is particularly true for larger commercial trucks, which have massive blind spots. It is best to avoid splitting lanes with commercial vehicles if possible.

Lane splitting can be safe if you’re careful

Lane splitting can be done safely if practiced by an attentive and careful motorcycle driver. A 2015 study performed by the University of California Berkeley had results that confirm this. The researchers found that lane splitting was “relatively safe” so long as the general flow of traffic was 50 miles per hour (mph) or slower. They also noted that motorcyclists should not exceed the speed of other vehicles in traffic by more than 15 mph.

Lane splitting can slightly ease congestion in traffic and can help motorcycle drivers reach their destination on time when traffic is at a standstill. Risks include the potential for drivers to not see you and road rage by those angered by drivers who resent the faster-moving motorized bikes.

In general, only those with expert control of their vehicle and a strong record of safety should attempt lane splitting on a motorcycle. For now, California law does not take a stance on the practice. In the future, if that should change, state motorcycle drivers should adjust their driving practices accordingly.