You can’t travel along the roads without seeing a motorcycle speeding by. It’s not surprising. California has some of the best motorcycle routes along the central coast to enjoy the beautiful sights. So motorcycles and cars are jockeying for the best lane positions to hurry to their destinations.
This increased traffic leads to motorcycle drivers sometimes taking shortcuts between cars to cut down on their travel time. They will pull up between cars that are sharing the same lane and either stop by the driver side door of the car when the traffic light is red or zoom past. Whenever car drivers see such a phenomenon, they wonder what types of laws are in place to prevent such an incident with the motorcycle.
Lane Splitting Laws
When a motorcycle weaves its way between and past cars in the same lane, this situation is called lane splitting, white-lining, filtering or land sharing. Motorcycles can do this when traffic is moving or when the cars have stopped for a red traffic light. In California, there are no laws prohibiting lane splitting. The only traffic law on the books for California is AB 51, which doesn’t make it illegal for motorcycles to perform lane splitting. This law also allows for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to provide educational materials to the public regarding safety guidelines for motorcycles and other motor vehicle drivers for when lane splitting is initiated by the motorcyclist.
CHP Lane Splitting Guidelines
The California Highway Patrol created the California Motorcyclist Safety Program guidelines that provide common sense traffic information when performing lane splitting maneuvers. These guidelines are not laws, but are designed to keep all motorists safe and to avoid accidents that can lead to serious or fatal injuries.
Motorcyclists should perform lane splitting when they are confident and competent enough riders. Inexperienced riders should refrain from lane splitting until they have gained more experience out on the road and feel that they can react adequately to traffic changes.
Keeping attention to all cars who are sharing the lane in case there are sudden turns or lane changes, motorcyclists should proceed with the lane splitting while traveling at speeds that are not more than 10 miles per hour faster to other traffic speeds. You do not want to have a greater speed differential as you will have less time to react to sudden changing traffic conditions. Also, you should not perform lane splitting when overall traffic speeds are greater than 30 miles per hour.
Motorcyclists are also encouraged to perform lane splitting in either the #1 or #2 furthest left lanes. You should avoid performing lane splitting on ramps for freeways, exits, and between wide vehicles such as RVs and trucks. Another time to avoid lane-splitting is when there is another motorcyclist that is performing lane splitting on one side of the cars as the car drivers may move over to make room for them and create a smaller lane passage for you to travel through on the other side.
Things to Watch out for with Motorists
Drivers can have mixed emotions regarding motorcyclists that lane split. Some drivers can become nervous and overreact, moving their vehicle away from motorcycles as they can end up creating accidents. So if you are on a motorcycle, always pay attention to nervous or inattentive drivers.
On the other hand, motorists can become angry when they see a motorcyclist trying to pass by them. On some occasions, the driver will try to box the motorcycle in to try to prevent the motorcyclist from passing. Other times, the driver sitting in a stopped car may open up their door to block the open space. Some drivers will also try to scare the motorcyclist by suddenly changing lanes in an attempt to force them off the road or to cause a crash.
In these instances, it is against the law for vehicle drivers to engage in reckless behavior that can cause a deliberate accident or injury to the motorcyclist. The CVC 22400 law prohibits a vehicle driver from intentionally impeding or blocking a motorcyclist in an action that can cause harm, while the CVC 22517 law makes it illegal for a vehicle driver to impede the motorcyclist using their car door.
Keeping Safe While On the Road
It is everyone’s responsibility to engage in safe driving practices for all drivers out on the road whether they are in a car, truck or on a motorcycle. However, a range of factors can cause an accident and medical injuries.
If you are a driver who has been in an accident, or a motorcyclist who becomes injured while lane splitting in California, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Law Office of Daniel J. O’Neill. We offer a free consultation for reviewing your case and provide legal advice so you can make the best decision for your circumstances and receive fair compensation.