Last year, a post on this blog explained how motorcyclists split lanes by passing in between vehicles that are traveling in the same direction as the motorcycle, but in two separate lanes. While lane-splitting might intuitively seem like an extremely dangerous practice, some people argue that it has safety merits.
In some other states, lane-splitting is illegal, but in California, the legality of this maneuver is up for debate. Law enforcement officers do not ticket California motorcyclists for lane-splitting, but no law affirmatively allows it. However, a group of state legislators is working to push a bill into law that would do just that, make lane-splitting openly legal throughout the state.
The bill apparently has at least some supporters from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Its authors argue that lane-splitting is safer than forcing motorcyclists to be stuck in between cars where they are more likely to get struck by an inattentive driver. That argument has some empirical support. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley studied 6,000 motorcycle accidents and found that rear-end collisions were more likely to cause serious injuries or death to the motorcyclist than were accidents involving lane-splitting.
A member of the California Motorcycle Safety Committee explained that lane-splitting isn’t just about speed for the rider, it also increases their safety. Of course, not everyone is on board with the idea that lane-splitting really does promote safety. The California bill that would allow and regulate lane-splitting will have to wait until at least the next legislative session before becoming law. Although a hearing in front of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee was set for July 14, the bill’s author tabled that hearing in favor of further working on the measure and again putting it before the legislature next year.
Regardless of whether the lane-splitting bill eventually does become law, the bill is a reminder that drivers should always be on the lookout for motorcyclists and help foster safety for everyone on the roads.
Source: Orange County Register, “Motorcycle lane-splitting bill pulled back,” Nicole Knight Shine, July 7, 2015