The rate of motorcycle accidents that result in death is fairly high in California when compared to that of most other states. When riding a motorcycle in our state, it is critical that you exercise caution and avoid engaging in any dangerous behaviors.
Some behaviors that can increase your chances of being involved in a motorcycle accident are obvious. For example, speeding can boost the odds of getting into an wreck. It can also increase the chances of sustaining serious injuries if an accident does happen.
However, there are other behaviors which can put you in harm’s way even if they seem reasonably safe. Lane splitting is one noteworthy example.
What is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle or bike between lanes and vehicles when traffic is moving very
slowly or at a complete standstill. Some motorcyclists and bikers use this as a means of moving furt
her ahead in slow-moving traffic.
This behavior is actually illegal in most states. Some states have laws that outlaw the practice explicitly. Others, like Texas, have laws that imply that lane splitting is against the law, since it may result in a motorcycle accident.
Even when it is legally permitted, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s advisable. The practice can – and often does – contribute to motorcycle accidents.
California’s Lane Splitting Law: What You Need to Know
California’s lane splitting law is unique. In California, lane splitting is legal for motorcyclists. California legalized lane splitting in order to reduce traffic congestion.
However, it’s important to understand that California was the first state to make lane splitting legal. Although other states have considered legalizing the practice, it’s still against the law in most parts of the country.
That’s because it can be very unsafe.
The following examples illustrate how lane splitting increases a motorcyclist’s chances of being involved in an accident:
- Other motorists may get frustrated when they see motorcyclists riding between lanes of traffic. They may react aggressively. Although there is no justification for such a reaction, motorcyclists can be injured when lane splitting triggers the anger and frustration of others.
- In traffic that is essentially at a standstill, drivers sometimes open their car doors. They may do so to dispose of trash or to step outside and get a better view of the traffic conditions. If a driver opens their door near a motorcyclist who is lane splitting, an accident might occur.
- Drivers in slow-moving traffic don’t always check for motorcyclists and bikers near their vehicles when inching forward. Sometimes, this results in a vehicle colliding with a motorcyclist. This can also cause a motorcyclist to be pinned between two vehicles.
California’s lawmakers evaluated the research and determined lane splitting should be legalized because it appears to be safe in ideal conditions. That’s a key fact to keep in mind. Lane splitting may be safe when all motorists are behaving responsibly. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on others to always behave responsibly on the road.
California’s Comparative Fault Laws and Lane Splitting: Essential Information
California is an at-fault state. In an at-fault state, you can seek compensation for your medical bills and related losses after a motorcycle accident by filing a claim or lawsuit to collect from the insurance of the negligent party (or parties) who caused said accident.
However, California also has comparative negligence laws. These laws exist because there are instances when accident victims may contribute to their accidents occurring. Or, their own negligence may contribute to the severity of their injuries.
For example, you may be seeking $20,000 after a motorcycle accident. If you were lane splitting when the accident occurred, an insurer could argue you were doing so in traffic conditions that rendered lane-splitting unsafe. They might thus claim you are 20% to blame for your accident or injuries. If an insurer could successfully argue that you were 20% responsible, the most you could recover in these circumstances would be $16,000.
Protecting yourself is the main reason to not engage in lane splitting. You simply must be aware that lane splitting could also potentially reduce the amount of compensation you might recover after an accident. Although this practice may technically be legal in California, that doesn’t mean lane splitting is ever a good idea.