Governor Jerry Brown has made lane-splitting a legally defined road maneuver for motorcyclists by signing Assembly Bill 51 on Friday, August 19.
California is the first state to legalize lane-splitting, which makes sense, considering the state’s history with it. For years, it has been a gray area for drivers, law enforcement and government officials.
In 2013, the California Highway Patrol published guidelines on the practice of lane-splitting, though their work was struck down by regulators who believed that the agency didn’t have the right to create policy.
Gov. Brown’s law defines lane-splitting as motorcycles that drive between two lanes of vehicles in order to move through traffic more quickly. Assembly Bill 51 allows motorcyclists this time-saving maneuver, though the California Highway Patrol still needs to come up with specifics, such as the maximum speed at which they can split lanes, how much faster they can go than other drivers, etc. They will work in tandem with the Department of Transportation and other state agencies, as well as motorcycle safety organizations, to come up with reasonable guidelines.
They have until January 1, 2017, when the law will go into effect. Previously, there was no explicit ruling on lane-splitting: it was neither illegal or legal, which left many motorcyclists confused about their driving rights.
Opinions vary as to whether or not lane-splitting is a good thing for California roads and beyond. Some see it as an easy way to clear up congestion, fitting slimmer vehicles into the gaps so that they can move along and out of the way. Others see it as an unsafe, reckless practice that requires all other vehicles to be more aware as bikes whiz by.
A study by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center showed that lane-splitting could be a safe practice, so long as bikers don’t exceed 50 M.P.H. or 15 M.P.H. more than the flow of traffic. The California Highway Patrol will have to consider this and other research as they nail down the specifics of lane-splitting safety requirements.
Motorcyclists often take to the road with greater risk, since they drive with higher exposure than drivers in traditional vehicles. For that reason, an accident on a motorcycle can cause much more significant damage and distress. Regardless of whether or not lane-splitting is involved in a traffic accident, don’t hesitate to contact the team at SoCal Injury Lawyers for counsel. Call us at 1-800-950-7755 for more information about our team and your rights so that you can get back onto the open road as soon as possible.