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Is Lane Splitting Safe? Safer?

lane-splittingOne of the biggest topics in motorcycle riding has been lane splitting. Car drivers hate it. Motorcycle riders would find it hard to live without it. Now legislation in several states is being considered that will make it legal. California has allowed it for many years.

This is a debate that has been without data points for a long time. The Hurt report released in 1981 didn’t really address it. The 2009 Maids report used statistics from countries that don’t allow it, and they didn’t dig very deep, either. That said, they reported a far less frequency of accidents from lane splitting than from being hit while stopped in traffic.

The big news is the CHP report prepared in conjunction with UC Berkeley, that looked at 8,000 motorcycle accidents, found that lane splitting reduced the chance of being rear ended from 4.6% to 2.7%; lane splitters were almost half as likely to suffer a head injury, a third less likely to suffer a torso injury, and less than half as likely to suffer a fatal injury. This is significant, as the safety statistics are at the high end of the injury scale.

I found it interesting that riders who lane split are also a little more likely to wear full face helmets, less than half as likely to be using alcohol at the time of the accident, and a little less likely to be riding without a motorcycle license.

The statistic that favored NOT lane splitting was that lane splitters were more than twice as likely to rear end another vehicle.

New Zealand has strict laws controlling lane splitting, not allowing it at higher speeds, in school zones, near parked cars, or along the curb. California is toying with similar limitations.

In the meantime, California riders can continue to share lanes, filter through traffic, and ride without guilt.

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About the Author

Michael Padway is a motorcycle accident attorney with over 40 years of experience in motorcycle cases. He’s been a lifelong motorcycle rider, and fanatic for its culture, advocacy, and safety. If you need assistance with a motorcycle accident, contact him at (800) 928-1511 or visit michaelpadway.com for a free consultation.