California is poised to be first state to sanction lane-splitting for motorcycles. According to a report in The Orange County Register, the state Assembly has passed a bill to allow motorcycles to drive between cars at speeds 15 mph faster than surrounding traffic, up to a speed of 50 mph. The measure is expected to be taken up by a Senate committee in July. The bill’s authors cite research suggesting lane-splitting is safer than wedging motorcyclists behind cars where they are more likely to suffer serious injury or death should they be rear-ended.
Police officers say the measure brings important safeguards, allowing officers to cite motorcyclists who split lanes in an unsafe manner. But, critics argue that the legislation is flawed and dangerous. The American Motorcyclist Association is opposed to the bill, AB51, saying that the rules need to be even less strict.
A Legal Gray Area
The issue of lane-splitting has always been a controversial one in California. Law enforcement officers in California don’t ticket motorcyclists who split lanes while other states have made it illegal. Last year, the California Highway Patrol issued guidelines on lane-splitting, but took it down after protests. The assembly bill has, however, received bipartisan support.
Motorcycle safety experts say motorcyclists are more likely to suffer serious injury or death in rear-end collisions than in lane-splitting accidents where injuries such as broken legs or arms are common. Although lane-splitting might make drivers nervous, safety experts say if riders split lanes at lower speeds and lower differentials, there will be an overall improvement in motorcycle safety. There is no question that rider education and training will also be part of this safety equation.
Dangers Faced By Motorcyclists
This can be important, precedent-setting legislation. It is important to obtain input from safety advocates as well as motorcyclists who are out on the roadway, who can talk about some of the practical difficulties and dangers they face while riding. This may be a legislation that needs to get passed, but it is important to examine it from all angles.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please understand that you may be entitled to compensation including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced California motorcycle accident lawyer will be able to advise injured victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.