As a motorist in California, you’ve likely sat in traffic a time or two. And if you drive a four-wheeled vehicle, you’ve probably watched in terror and a bit of envy, as motorcyclists sneak between lanes. Since 2017, this maneuver, known as lane splitting, white lining, filtering, or lane sharing, has been uniquely legal to California. And while its legalization is controversial and often questioned by everyday drivers, several studies argue for its traffic safety benefits.
According to motorcycle safety consultant Steve Guderian in a 2011 study, lane splitting was found to be an effective defensive driving technique. He explained that it keeps the motorcyclist out from directly behind a vehicle in slowed traffic where they could easily be rear-ended. With lane splitting, riders spend less time in this vulnerable position. Additionally, the Belgium-based Transport and Mobility Leuven found that motorcyclists who lane split reduce emissions by 6 percent as well as collisions on congested roads.
However, despite the evident benefits and undeniable temptation of lane splitting, it must be executed with caution and focused spacial awareness. When a motorcyclist drives in between lanes, they are inherently less visible to other motorists. And in the case of another individual’s distracted driving, a lane splitter is exceptionally vulnerable. So, if you choose to lane split on your motorcycle, be sure to follow the do’s and don’ts provided by the California Motorcyclist Safety Program.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Note lane width, the size of the vehicles you pass, and each motorists acknowledgment of your presence.
- Only split the furthest left lanes of the highway as to avoid entrance and exit lanes where fewer lane changes take place.
- Help drivers see you with the use of reflective gear and bright colors. It is also best to avoid lane splitting at dusk or in the rain.
- Anticipate the actions of other drivers. This should involve avoiding lingering in blind spots and making sudden changes.
- Do not exceed traffic speed by more than ten mph. And keep in mind that with higher speeds, comes greater risk while lower speeds allow for longer reaction times for you and other drivers.
- If traffic is moving faster than 30mph, avoid lane splitting completely.
- Do not lane split on unfamiliar roads. With familiarity, you can better anticipate curves or uneven surfaces that might hinder your focus and threaten your safety. Only lane split when you feel most confident in your ability to drive well.
Every rider is responsible for his or her own safety and their decision to lane split. And as you ride, you must make it a priority to reduce your risk of crashing. However, these do’s and don’ts cannot guarantee your safety. So, if you are involved in an accident while lane splitting, be sure to seek legal help. Do not hesitate to contact us at Raynes and Erickson for expert counsel and advocacy.