During stopped or slow-moving traffic in California, motorcycles are allowed to pass between cars. This maneuver is known as lane-splitting and is only legal in California.
The California Highway Patrol published guidelines on motor lane-splitting for experienced riders. However, in the event of a collision, determining liability is strictly case-by-case.
Who is Liable in a Lane-Splitting Accident?
Lane-splitting is a controversial subject among California drivers since it was illegal for many years, even though police rarely issued citations. It can also be challenging to prove liability in lane-splitting accidents, yet there are instances where the issue is straightforward. These include:
- A passenger vehicle driver may be held liable if he/she hit a motorcyclist who was safely splitting lanes
- A motorcyclist may be held liable if he/she was unsafely splitting lanes (speeding, cutting off cars and weaving)
The determining factor in these examples is whether the motorcyclist safely split lanes or not.
What are safe lane-splitting practices?
The CHP published guidelines in 2013, before the law became official:
- Motorcyclists should drive no more than 10 miles per hour faster than other traffic
- Avoid splitting lanes when traffic is moving at 30 miles per hour or faster
- It is safer to split lanes between lane numbers 1 and 2
- Consider your environment before lane-splitting
- Be alert and anticipate maneuvers from other motorists
After lane-splitting became legal in 2016, the CHP was tasked with creating more specific guidelines than these. Yet to date, nothing further has been published. As motorcyclists embrace the new law, lane-splitting has sparked concern amongst motorists.
Is Lane-Splitting Safe?
The California Office of Traffic Safety conducted a study on splitting lanes. The report recorded the number of lane splitting accidents from June 2012 to August 2013.
- 5,969 California motorcycle crashes occurred during the 14-month period
- 997 of these crashes involved lane splitting
- 17 percent of all accidents in the study involved lane-splitting
After analyzing the crash data, researchers determined that splitting lanes can be safe when certain guidelines are met:
“Lane-splitting appears to be a relatively safe motorcycle riding strategy if done in traffic moving at 50 MPH or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 MPH.”
The study also emphasized the inherent risks:
“Lane-splitting riders often put themselves closer to other vehicles than they otherwise would. This proximity reduces the time riders have to identify and react to changes in the behaviors of other motorists.”
The Risks of Lane-Splitting
Many motorists choose to ride motorcycles for their small size and agility.
Still, many debate whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Some believe that splitting lanes creates the opportunity for more traffic accidents, pointing to situations where motorcyclists have significantly less time to react to vehicles around them.
Worse, motorcyclists tend to suffer grave or fatal injuries following a wreck. Internal bruising, broken bones and traumatic brain injury are common outcomes in collisions.
Speak with an Attorney Today
Liability in cases involving lane-splitting is not usually clear-cut. Each circumstance requires extensive review to determine fault. A knowledgeable lawyer can help determine your rights after a crash.
The cost of recovering after an unexpected crash is a significant burden. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you get the compensation you need to offset these expenses.
The attorneys at Hodes Milman Liebeck have successfully helped accident victims recover damages for their losses. Our legal team is here to help guide you through the legal process. We make the process of filing a claim as simple as possible. Contact Hodes Milman Liebeck at (949) 640-8222 today for a no-obligation, free consultation and take the first step towards reclaiming your life.