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Lane splitting by CA motorcyclists can be dangerous for drivers

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2023 | Motorcycle crashes |

California is the rare state in which “lane splitting” by motorcyclists is not illegal, as long as it’s done safely. Under the California Vehicle Code, lane splitting “means driving a motorcycle…between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”

Many motorcyclists and even safety advocates say that, when done responsibly, lane splitting helps keep everyone on the road safer and traffic moving (as much as it can on our perpetually overloaded freeways). Having to stay still in stopped traffic and balance a motorcycle can also be challenging.

When is lane splitting risky for everyone?

As a driver, though, you’ve likely been startled by a motorcyclist who seemingly appeared out of nowhere to get in front of you. Certainly, it can be dangerous to have to stop suddenly or fear that you need to change lanes without having time to make sure the next lane is clear to avoid hitting a lane-splitting biker.

Just because lane splitting isn’t, in itself, illegal, that doesn’t mean that it’s always safe to do so. Lane splitting is more dangerous for everyone on the road when traffic is moving at high speeds or when there’s a significant variance in speed (for example, in start-and-stop traffic). Motorcyclists are also cautioned to avoid lane splitting around trucks, RVs and other large vehicles, in part because of their larger blind spots.

Drivers can take steps to stay safe around lane-splitting bikers

Drivers can help minimize their risk of colliding with a lane-splitting motorcyclist (or anyone else on the road) by being conscientious about:

  • Signaling your intention to change lanes
  • Checking your mirrors and turning around to look in your blind spots before moving into another lane
  • Not speeding or engaging in other unsafe driving behaviors, like trying to multi-task

A driver can do all of these things and get involved in a collision, with a motorcyclist or another driver, if a biker makes a sudden, unsafe move.

If you’ve suffered injuries in a crash caused by a motorcyclist whom you believe was behaving in an unsafe and possibly illegal manner, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical costs and other expenses and damages. Having sound legal guidance will help you protect your rights and make a strong case.

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