Lane Splitting and California Motorycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents remain a serious safety problem in California. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports that in 2014, motorcycle accidents injured 11,000 people. All too often, the general public simply assumes that bikers must be at fault for their own accidents. There is an unfair perception that motorcyclists often engage in ‘risky’ or ‘dangerous’ behavior.

Yet, often, a lack of knowledge on motorcycle operations leads to that position. For example, ‘lane splitting’, which many drivers assume to be dangerous, is actually a safe and legal road practice. Here, our Long Beach motorcycle accident attorneys discuss lane splitting and its effects on California accidents.

When Done Properly, Lane Splitting is Safe

Lane splitting is the practice of a riding a motorcycle in between the middle of two lanes of stopped (or slowly moving) traffic. Bikers may engage in lane splitting to save time by quickly bypassing the traffic congestion that is all too common in Southern California. The evidence suggests that lane splitting is actually more safe for motorcyclists than is stopping behind vehicles in slow moving traffic. Indeed, in a study of more than 6,000 crashes, researchers from the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California Berkeley found that lane splitting riders were less likely to be rear-ended and less likely to suffer concussions, serious torso injuries or death.

Lane Splitting is Legal in California

Under California law, lane splitting is legal. Riders must be safe and follow certain guidelines, though. The California Highway Patrol instructs lane splitting bikers to be:

  • Reasonable;
  • Responsible; and
  • Aware of road conditions.

As a general rule, lane splitting should only be done at a speed that is under 40 miles per hour, and no more than 10 miles per hour faster than the traffic in the other lanes. Motorcyclists also have other duties when lane splitting, such as avoiding erratic movements.

Who is Liable for a Lane Splitting Accident?

Since lane splitting is a legal practice that can be done safely, motorcyclists are not inherently liable any resulting accidents. Ultimately, liability for these crashes will always depend on the specific facts of the case. Investigators will need to determine exactly why the accident occurred and which, if any, parties failed to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Many factors can complicate assigning fault in accidents. As a California is a comparative negligence state, sometimes two or more parties may even share liability for the same crash. To protect yourself from an unfair share of accident liability, you need to get your case into the hands of an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible after a lane splitting accident.

Get Legal Help Today

At The Beliz Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling motorcycle accident claims. Call our firm today at 562-452-3772 to request a free review of your case. From our primary office in Long Beach, we serve communities throughout the region, including Westminster, Riverside, and San Diego.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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