Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in California?

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Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Jun 15, 2021

After recently publishing a blog looking at California’s laws determining at what age a child can legally ride on the back of a motorcycle, we thought we’d tackle another popular topic for motorcycle enthusiasts. The technique known as lane splitting is both efficient and practical for motorcycle riders, but many – including car, bus, and truck drivers – are unsure whether or not it’s legal.

Let’s look at what lane splitting entails for motorcycle riders and review what the law says about if you can apply the method when traveling along California’s roads and highways.

What is Lane Splitting for Motorcycle Riders?

Lane splitting (or stripe riding/whitening as it is sometimes referred) is the act of driving a motorcycle between the lanes or rows of traffic. The technique is primarily used so motorcycle riders can weave through congested traffic (cars, busses, trucks, etc.). While other vehicles are stopped or moving slowly along the roadways, lane splitting offers motorcycle riders the option to essentially beat the traffic.

Motorcyclists say lane splitting is both safe and effective, allowing motorcycle riders to improve traffic conditions for all. KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco reported that many motorcyclists view lane splitting as absolutely necessary.

You’re taking vehicles out of that line, and it’s less of a clog on the highways,” Liza Miller, who runs a motorcycle repair and community gathering space out of her Santa Cruz home, told KQED.

Is Lane Splitting Legal for California’s Motorcycle Riders?

Yes, although for many years there were shades of grey as to how legal. Many car and truck drivers are mistakenly under the impression that lane splitting is illegal. KQED reported that a 2014 study confirmed that just 60.7% of vehicle drivers were aware that lane splitting was not prohibited. Some motor vehicle operators – perhaps those more inclined to road rage – feel that each time a motorcyclist performs the technique they’re effectively breaking the law and the proper authorities should be notified.

However, if you do call the police on a motorcyclist who is lane splitting, you’re not going to get very far – not since the passage of AB 51, that is.

In 2016, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 51 into law. Although lane splitting has technically never been outlawed in California, AB 51 allowed the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines around the practice. The legislation also established a definition for lane splitting:

Driving a motorcycle (that has two wheels in contact with the ground) between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”

AB 51 officially recognized lane splitting (also referred to as lane sharing in the bill) as a legal act, thereby clearing up the grey area that existed prior to its passage. Before AB 51, while there was no law explicitly stating that lane splitting was illegal for California motorcycle riders, there also was no law confirming the legality of the practice. Now, that grey area is clarified – although that doesn’t necessarily mean that many vehicle drivers aren’t still under the wrongful impression that lane splitting remains illegal.

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Is California the Only State Where Motorcycle Lane Splitting is Legal?

Is California the Only State Where Motorcycle Lane Splitting is Legal?

As it turns out, California is currently the sole state that legally allows for motorcycle lane splitting (what’s known as a fully legal state). Utah and Hawaii both have modified laws allowing for some iterations of lane splitting, but the practice is not entirely legal.

Additionally, five states – including Oregon – are currently considering legislation that would make motorcycle lane splitting legal. And 10 states – including Texas, North Carolina, and New Mexico – do not have a specific prohibition on lane splitting. But those states also do not have any laws explicitly legalizing the technique, so motorcycle riders in Dallas, Charlotte, and Albuquerque could, in theory, be ticketed for lane splitting.

Furthermore, 32 states have fully prohibited the technique of motorcycle lane splitting.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting Safety Recommendations

Motorcycle Lane Splitting Safety Recommendations

The California Motorcycle Safety Program has identified specific tips to help motorcyclists safely practice the technique of lane splitting. Those tips include the Four ‘Rs‘ or ‘Be-Attitudes‘ of lane splitting: be reasonable, be responsible, be respectful, and be aware of all roadway and traffic conditions.

1. Reasonable means not more than 10 MPH faster than traffic flow and not over 39 MPH when lane-splitting.

2. You are Responsible for your own safety and decisions:

  • Don’t put yourself in dangerous positions
  • If you can’t fit, don’t split

3. Be Respectful: sharing the road goes both ways:

  • Don’t rely on loud pipes to keep you safe – loud pipes often startle people and poison the attitudes of car drivers towards motorcyclists
  • Other vehicles are not required to make space for motorcycles to lane split

4. Roadways and traffic can be hazardous:

  • Uneven pavement
  • Wide trucks
  • Distracted drivers
  • Weather conditions
  • Curves

Additionally, the California Motorcycle Safety Program identified specific scenarios when it is not acceptable to practice lane splitting. Motorcyclists should NOT practice lane splitting under the following corcumstances:

  1. If you can’t fit

  2. At a toll booth

  3. If traffic is moving too fast or unpredictably

  4. If dangerous road conditions exist-examples include water or grit on the road, slippery road markings, road construction, uneven pavement, metal grates, etc.

  5. If you cannot clearly see a way out of the space you’re going into (for example, if a van or SUV is blocking your view)

  6. Between trucks, buses, RVs and other wide vehicles

  7. Around or through curves

  8. If you are not fully alert and aware of your surroundings

  9. If you are unable to react to changing conditions instantaneously

  10. If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation

Moreover, the California Motorcycle Safety program stresses that lane splitting is a legal practice in California, and motorists should never take it upon themselves to discourage motorcyclists from lane splitting. Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist from splitting lanes in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal. Additionally, opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcyclist is explicitly illegal.

Furthermore, engaging in such acts could lead to a confrontation that could escalate into a serious road rage incident. If a motorcyclist is lane splitting, they more than likely know what they’re doing and – although it may not seem safe to a motorist who is unfamiliar with motorcycles – confronting another driver is never a good idea.

In the unlikely event that you’re injured by a lane splitting motorcyclist, the experienced attorneys at Dordulian Law Group can help you file a personal injury claim to ensure you recover the maximum financial compensation you deserve.

Finally, some other recommendations for lane splitting safely include:

  • Travel at a speed that is no more than 10 miles per hour faster than other traffic (cars, trucks, busses, etc.).
  • A speed of 10 miles per hour or less allows for an alert and competent driver to identify and react to any dangerous situations that may occur.
  • Do not lane split when the traffic flow is above 30 miles per hour.
  • It’s typically safer to split between the #1 and #2 lanes (the far-left traffic lanes) than between other lanes.
  • Consider the total environment in which you are splitting, including the width of the lanes, the size of surrounding motor vehicles, as well as roadway, water, and lighting conditions.

Lane Splitting Road Rage is Common

KQED reported that searching for “lane splitting road rage” on YouTube can lead to a trove of videos showing angry drivers arguing with lane splitting motorcyclists. A motorcyclist who was injured in a road rage accident spoke with the public broadcasting company:

“For me, it resulted in somebody crossing a double yellow and running me up onto a sidewalk,” said Kat Taylor, who KQED indicated had been riding for about four years. “I ended up crashing trying to get away from them, and I broke 15 bones, and I got road rash over 40 percent of my body.”

If You’re Injured in a Lane Splitting Accident, DLG is Here to Help

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) was founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. With over 100 jury trial victories accrued throughout his esteemed career, Dordulian has the experience needed to win difficult cases, such as motorcycle lane splitting accidents.

If you’ve suffered any kind of motorcycle accident injury, Dordulian and his team are here to fight for you, serving as your dedicated legal advocate and working tirelessly to recover a maximum financial damages award. Whether you’ve endured losses such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, rehabilitation expenses, emotional trauma, or reduced quality of life, the DLG Motorcycle Accident Division attorneys will fight to help you get back on your feet and make a complete recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially.

In motorcycle lane splitting accident cases, recovering evidence can be the difference between a $1,000 settlement and a $1 million settlement. That’s why DLG launches a thorough investigation led by retired LAPD Central Traffic Division Detective – Moses Castillo – on every motorcycle accident case we handle. We know how valuable evidence can be in proving a case, which is why we ensure every piece that could help you secure a higher settlement award is recovered.

Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue a financial award for your personal injury case. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

While lane splitting may be misunderstood by many vehicle drivers, it is absolutely legal in California. If you were injured by another motorist – whether by accident or due to an instance of lane splitting road rage – the DLG team is here to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve.

With a 98% success record and over $100 million in settlements and verdicts recovered for injured victims like you, DLG is the absolute best choice for a motorcycle accident attorney in California. Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 to learn more about what makes us the best motorcycle accident litigation firm in California. We never settle for less than a maximum financial damages award for every client. And if the insurance company or at-fault party refuses, we take the case to trial and, using Sam Dordulian’s years of experience, win it before a jury.

With DLG, you never have to worry about being saddled with medical expenses or mounting debt because your attorney negotiated a lowball settlement offer. DLG has the experience and proven results you can trust. We’ll fight to secure the maximum financial damages award you deserve after an untimely motorcycle accident.

And with our No Win/No Fee Guarantee, you never pay a penny until we recover maximum compensation for your injuries. After a motorcycle accident injury, the best call you can make is to the experienced and dedicated lawyers at DLG.

Go See Sam