Traffic congestion is one of the most dangerous situations for motorcyclists on the road. According to the Hurt Report, a comprehensive motorcycle accident causation study, 59% of motorcycle accidents occurred in moderate or heavy traffic conditions. To avoid sitting in traffic, many motorcyclists engage in lane splitting. Lane splitting is the practice of driving a motorcycle in the space between two lanes, amid stopped or slow moving cars. This act has been thought to be a contributing factor in the high percentage of motorcycle accidents. However, studies report just the opposite.
Motorcyclists who lane split are actually safer on the road than those who remain among the traffic according to a study published by the University of California at Berkeley. “Motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists, are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries, and are less likely to sustain fatal injuries in a crash.” Motorcyclists are at highest risk when exposed to stop and go traffic – lane splitting gives them a way out.
Currently, California is the only state that tolerates lane splitting. While it’s technically not legal, the California Vehicle Code contains no mention of lane splitting. The California Highway Patrol has issued guidelines, though they carry no legal weight. California also has significantly fewer motorcyclist fatalities from rear collisions than any other state. There have been attempts to pass legislation legalizing lane splitting in other states, most recently in Nevada. If passed, motorcyclists would be permitted to split lanes at speeds no more than 15 mph faster than traffic and no faster than 50 mph overall. There is also a petition on the White House website that seeks to make lane splitting legal throughout the US.
While UC Berkley’s study may report reduced risk for lane splitters, there are always risks and dangers when riding a motorcycle. It is important to always ride responsibly, wear protective gear, and be hyper-aware of your surroundings.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident or have questions about motorcycle safety, please do not hesitate to contact us or call us at 800-676-5295.