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How Dangerous Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting? Reducing Motorcycle Accidents in CA

Should Motorcycle Lane Splitting Be Outlawed in California?

There’s an ongoing debate in America about the safety of a motorcycle practice known as lane splitting. Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist drives between lanes, riding on the white line through stopped or slowed traffic instead of within a lane. Currently, the only state that has legalized motorcycle lane splitting is California. While many applaud the passing of this legislation and believe in its safety, other organizations are pushing to outlaw lane splitting in the Golden State. Here are the facts about lane splitting and motorcycle accidents in California.

Lane Splitting and Collisions

One of the most obvious safety factors about lane splitting is the significant reduction in the number of rear-end collisions involving motorcycles. Driver inattention on Riverside’s busy roadways results in dozens of motorcycle-related rear-end collisions every year. In these collisions, motorcyclists may become pinned between vehicles, thrown off bikes, and suffer severe personal and property damages. A study by the University of California Berkeley found that lane splitting significantly lowers the risk of motorists striking motorcycles from behind, reducing the chance of head and torso injuries.

Stop-and-go traffic on busy highways is the most dangerous roadway condition for vulnerable motorcyclists. Bored and inattentive drivers, drivers texting and driving, and those following too closely all put motorcyclists at risk of a rear-end collision in bumper-to-bumper conditions. California’s current laws make lane splitting legal in such conditions – when it’s safe and prudent to do so. The point of passing this law was to reduce the number of accidents involving motorcyclists on the roadways.

In the 997 lane-splitting accidents (out of nearly 6,000 reported motorcycle crashes in California between 2012 and 2013), the most common scenario was a rider traveling too fast when a passenger vehicle driver changes lanes. According to the Berkeley study, lane splitting is safe if done in traffic moving less than 50 miles per hour and if the motorcycle doesn’t exceed the speed of passenger vehicles by more than 15 miles per hour. Under these conditions, a motorcyclist has time to safely react to a driver changing lanes.

Pros and Cons of Lane Splitting


The pros of lane splitting include less road congestion, reduced fuel emissions, and less risk of motorcyclist injuries. A motorcyclist enjoys less congestion since he or she can simply maneuver around stopped vehicles. Other motorists also enjoy less congestion, since the motorcycles can leave the line and reduce the number of vehicles waiting. When a vehicle idles in traffic, it burns fuel inefficiently. Allowing motorcycles to avoid this problem helps reduce fuel consumption and dirty emissions in California.

A lane-splitting motorcyclist can separate him/herself from dangerous situations more easily than other motorcyclists. Riding between lanes, separately from the main flow of traffic, puts motorcyclists and passenger vehicles at less risk of coming into contact with one another. It lowers the risk of rear-end collisions and improves the visibility of motorcyclists to other road users.


The cons of lane splitting include closer proximity to other motorists, road surface problems, frightening other drivers, and irritating drivers with “queue jumping.” The California Motorcyclist Safety Program’s Lane Splitting General Guidelines state that failing to be respectful while lane splitting can “startle people and poison the attitude” of motorists toward motorcyclists. This can lead to vehicles reacting badly to lane splitting, accidentally jerking the wheel or flying into fits of road rage.

Lane splitting may not be the perfect solution for motorcyclists, but studies suggest that it does keep motorcyclists safe if they abide by the rules. There will always be naysayers against new laws in California, but whether to outlaw a driving practice or not comes down to what’s in the best interest of the people.

Seek Council from a Riverside Motorcycle Accident Attorney

If you are injured in a motorcycle accident in Riverside County, contact the Riverside personal injury lawyer team at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case! They can help get the compensation that you deserve. Contact their Riverside office today for a free consultation! 909-882-2016

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