What should you know about lane splitting in California?

With the passage of state Assembly Bill 51, Californian motorcyclists can now legally share the lane with other vehicles when passing. The contentious bill allows motorcyclists to lane split, which is also known as white-lining or lane sharing. Now that lane splitting is exiting the legal gray area, it is up to all of us to make safe decisions and know our responsibilities on the road.

Here are the best practices you need to know from both a driver and motorcyclist perspective.

Lane-Splitting For Cars

If you are driving a car, this new bill makes it even more important to keep an eye out for motorcycles. While it can be frustrating to see a motorcyclist passing through traffic, the legislature wants to help them avoid getting rear-ended in a traffic jam. This new bill means being closer to motorcycles and having confidence in your own driving abilities.

While it may feel like motorcycles are cheating their way through traffic because of this law, the goal is to maximize everyone's safety and speed. Drivers should keep an eye out for motorcycles in traffic and do their best to minimize blind spots. It is important to note that intentionally blocking or harming a motorcyclist is illegal (CVC 22400). Serious or fatal accidents can occur if drivers try to impede a motorcyclist by opening a door (CVC 22157) or by making erratic movements.

Passing For Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists now have the ability to legally split lanes with other vehicles. The idea behind legalizing this practice is that motorcyclists can avoid high-danger traffic jams while lessening congestion. Unfortunately for inexperienced motorcyclists, this will bring them much closer to cars and may raise their chances of being struck by a car.

While the California MVD will not have formal guidelines until January 1, 2017 here are a few of their older recommendations that you can follow:

  • Do not travel 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic when passing.
  • Do not try to split lanes when traffic is faster than 30mph, faster speed = slower reaction time.
  • It is safer to split between the first two lanes (furthest left) than the other lanes.
  • Treat other motor vehicles as if they cannot see you and try to give them as wide a berth as possible.

Even if you follow these guidelines the act of lane-splitting can be dangerous. Make sure to follow all safety guidelines and wear a helmet to reduce your risk of serious injury.

If You Get Into An Accident

If you get into an accident while lane-splitting or are hit by a motorcyclist seek medical aid, then it's a good idea to speak to an attorney. California is a comparative fault state, which means that the victims pay only for their fault. With the guidelines around lane-splitting still being worked on, the cases fall into a legal gray area for now. An attorney can guide you through the legal process and explain how your case is different from others. Feel free to review our motorcycle accident FAQ to better understand the unique complexities of the law around motorcycles.

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