Is lane splitting legal in California?

2020-09-02T06:30:32+00:00August 29th, 2014|

Orange County is home to many motorcycle enthusiasts who frequently ride their motorcycles all throughout the county and the state. Regardless of whether a person rides as a means of transportation, or purely for enjoyment, safety should always be the rider’s top priority. Likewise, drivers in other vehicles have an obligation to pay attention to motorcycles and to not operate their own vehicles in a way that would unreasonably risk the safety of people on motorcycles.

Because a motorcycle offers riders so little protection, an accident can easily leave the motorcyclist with serious injuries resulting in permanent disability. Although riding does have some inherent dangers, it can be done safely, as long as the rider and other people on the roadways act reasonably. One controversial motorcycle riding practice that can be especially dangerous is known as “lane splitting.” So what exactly is lane splitting, and is it legal in California?

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist passes another vehicle while traveling in the same direction and the same lane. Because motorcycles are so small, they can conceivably fit alongside of a car in the same lane. But, this can be a risky maneuver, and it becomes particularly dangerous when the driver in the car is not devoting his or her full attention to the road.

According to the California Highway Patrol, lane splitting is not prohibited under state law. Therefore, drivers in cars and trucks must be aware of the possibility of a motorcyclist using lane splitting as a means of passing. Moreover, those drivers should not use their lane of travel in such a way as to intentionally prevent motorcyclists from passing.

Although lane splitting sounds like an extremely dangerous maneuver, it can be a safe and effective means for a motorcyclist to pass through dense traffic. When it comes to avoiding motorcycle accidents, the bottom line is that both motorcyclists and other drivers share the responsibility for operating their vehicles in a safe manner that does not endanger anyone on the roadways.

Source: California Highway Patrol, “California Motorcyclist Safety Program – Motorcycle Safety Information Update,” Accessed on Aug. 25, 2014

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