California Motorcycle Riders: Lane Splitting
Lane splitting (or lane sharing — depending on your perspective) is one of the most controversial motorcycle rider behaviors in California.
What is the law on lane splitting?
California law does NOT prohibit lane splitting. In fact, California is the only U.S. state that allows lane splitting when done in a “safe and prudent manner.”
When is “safe and prudent” to split a lane?
As a personal injury trial attorney, I’ve found lane-splitting is considered unsafe when the motorcyclist is travelling 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic. However, this 10 mph language was recently removed from the California Motor Vehicle handbook, so there is no hard-and-fast rule regarding what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane sharing.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for years and I believe lane splitting, like anything else, can be done safely if done properly. However, carpool/HOV lanes, inattentive drivers, distracted drivers, road ragers, and the growing number of drivers who seem to intentionally change lanes or swerve into your path have all changed the way we ride over the years.
Suddenly and without warning a car makes an unsafe lane change directly into your path, or collides with your bike, causing you to be ejected from your motorcycle. Your body strikes the car and then the roadway, causing serious injuries. Even though lane splitting is legal, you may be shocked to find the accident report says YOU were at fault and cites YOU for riding at an Unsafe Speed for Conditions (CVC §22350), breaking the plane between lanes- Straddling or Unsafe Lane Changes (CVC §21658a), or some other violation.
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