If you’ve spent any time driving in California, you’ve seen it. If you’re a motorcyclist you’ve probably done it. We are speaking, of course, about lane splitting. The practice of allowing motorcyclists to drive in between lanes of cars during traffic congestion is unique to California. It is not legal in any other state.
In fact, it’s not technically legal here, either – at least not yet. There isn’t a specific statute permitting lane splitting, but it has been an accepted practice for decades. And if a current bill passes the state legislature, lane splitting could become officially legal very soon.
The bill has already passed the assembly and will now make its way to the Senate. A strong argument for legalization is that lawmakers could place restrictions on lane splitting and police could better enforce the practice. A couple years ago, the California Highway Patrol issued safety guidelines (take it slow, ride only in the left two lanes, etc.), but without a law there is no real enforcement mechanism.
At least one study has found that lane splitting is safer for motorcyclists than stopping in traffic. This is because inattentive drivers often rear-end stopped motorcyclists, which can be injurious or fatal. Allowing riders to keep moving ultimately reduces the chances that they’ll be struck in this fashion (although lane splitting does have its own obvious dangers).
As Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month draws to a close, passing a lane-splitting bill seems like a fitting way to show California’s commitment to keeping riders safe.