12.12.16 - Lane Splitting

Driving down the highway have you ever had a motorcycle come up next to you trying to share the lane with you? This practice is called lane splitting and it’s something that exists in the gray area of laws on the roads in our country. In nearly every single state this practice is deemed illegal, but as one of the most progressive states in the country, California has a different view of this practice and has allowed lane splitting for years. The problem, until now, is the fact there weren’t any concrete laws to state this action was legal.

In recent news California announced it will make lane splitting legal and be the first state to do so. The bill covering this new law is still to be signed by the governor, but that seems a formality at this point. Originally the bill was to create some restrictions for the riders to follow which would have stated they couldn’t travel more than 15 mph faster than the traffic and at a limited top speed while splitting the lane of 50 mph, but many motorcycle groups spoke up stating this was too restrictive and now the bill will pass without these restrictions at all.

It may be a step in the right direction for those riding motorcycles to have this law passed in California, but it seems this would make the roads less safe than they already are. Considering we have numerous drivers who are texting, eating, drinking or even dressing while driving adding a motorcycle coming up right next to them in the same lane can create a potentially deadly equation. Not only can this become a serious hazard for the rider of the motorcycle, but while in a car it could cause drivers to take their attention away from what’s in front of them and cause an accident.

So far proponents of lane splitting claim this activity reduces congestion and makes the ride safer. In order to make this more of a possibility the California Highway Patrol published a set of guidelines for safe lane splitting last year, but it wasn’t met with the positive reactions expected as some felt the law enforcement agency was making laws which led to the current bill being sent to the governor to be signed into law.

While I’m not sure how lane splitting can make the ride safer for motorcyclists, I can see the reduction in congestion and during a gridlocked drive due to rush hour, an accident or construction fewer vehicles needing to get through makes sense, but the reality is motorcyclists are in more danger when lane splitting. the fact that no other states have allowed this practice or are even considering putting it into law should be a message to California as to how unsafe this practice can be.

I have no objection to lane sharing by motorcyclists who choose to ride side by side with other motorcycles, but lane sharing with larger vehicles is not the direction we should be headed. It doesn’t take much from a car, truck, SUV, bus or semi to take out a motorcycle as their coming up the lane in between vehicles. Putting a law into effect that doesn’t have speed restrictions or behavior limitations makes for a dangerous situation and only gives the motorcyclists the ability to say they’re not breaking the law, but they are certainly putting their lives in danger by trying to share the lane with much larger vehicles.

It’s hard enough to drive and keep an eye out for motorcyclists on most roads, imagine an entire group of motorcycles sharing your lane while you’re driving. This can be unnerving and easily cause an accident when you try to change lanes, need to turn or the motorcyclists inadvertently hits the side of your vehicle. This is one area where California needs to take a step back and not try and be the most progressive state in the country. Motorcyclists need to be protected better, from themselves and from the other drivers on the road. Giving them a free pass to share lanes only makes for more trouble and potentially a higher accident rate.

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