California lawmaker moves to legalize motorcycle lane splitting

Back in April, we discussed a study of lane splitting by the University of California - Berkeley. As readers may recall, the study concluded that lane splitting, or the practice of motorcyclists riding between lanes of four-wheeled traffic on the highway, does not raise the risk of a collision.

As Californians know, lane splitting is not specifically prohibited here, though whether it is technically legal is a matter of debate. Many riders believe that splitting lanes is actually safer than staying between the lane markers, because it reduces the risk of a rear-end collision.

The Berkeley study had a dramatic effect, the Washington Post reports. After it was released, the California Office of Traffic Safety and California Highway Patrol posted guidelines for how to split lanes safely on their websites. After complaints that these tips amounted to “underground regulations,” both agencies pulled the info down. But this left lane-splitting in the same legal limbo it has been in for years in California.

In reaction, Assembly member Bill Quirk has introduced a bill that would formally recognize lane splitting as a legal traffic maneuver for motorcycles. It would also ask the CHP and state regulators to develop guidelines for what is allowed, and what is not.

Though it is fairly common practice already, official legalization of lane splitting could encourage more riders to do it. That in turn might reduce the number of cars crashing into riders on California’s highways.

However, riders will always be vulnerable to negligent and reckless motorists, and crashes often cause them serious injury.

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