Study Finds Lane Splitting Is Safe if Done Properly

Study follows survey showing drivers becoming more accepting of practice

A study by UC Berkeley has found that, if done properly, lane-splitting is sometimes safer than driving inside the road or highway lane, according to the Sacramento Bee. The study found that so long as motorcyclists are driving between lanes within a certain speed range then they are less likely to be involved in an accident, especially by being rear-ended by another vehicle. The results of the study follow controversy over the practice, which is legal in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) earlier removed guidelines about lane splitting from their publications.

Lane-splitting safe

Researchers looked at traffic data involving fatal motorcycle accidents in California and found that overall lane-splitting was no more dangerous than driving within a lane. The study did note that the practice was safe so long as regular traffic was moving 30 mph or less and the motorcyclist was travelling no more than 10 mph faster than the rest of the traffic on the road. Cyclists who exceeded that 10 mph differential were more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

Furthermore, the study found that motorcyclists who split lanes were less likely to be rear-ended by another vehicle, although they were more likely to rear-end a vehicle themselves. Interestingly, the study also concluded that motorcyclists who split lanes typically wear better helmets and usually suffer less severe injuries.

Public opinion changing

Although lane-splitting is legal in California, public perception of the practice has often been tainted by misinformation. In the past, many drivers have been under the false belief that lane-splitting was either dangerous or illegal. The issue became controversial this summer when the CHP and DMV removed guidelines about how to safely split lanes from their publications. Safety advocates claimed that removing the guidelines put motorcyclists at risk by not informing them how to safely split lanes.

Furthermore, according to the Press Enterprise, popular opinion about lane-splitting may finally be shifting. A 2014 survey concluded that 52 percent of Californian drivers approve of lane-splitting, which is a full 8 percent increase compared to the previous year. The survey also found that 61 percent of drivers are now aware that lane-splitting is legal, compared to 56 percent in 2013.

Motorcycle accidents

When it comes to motorcycle safety, public perceptions are often at odds with the facts. Contrary to what many drivers believe, most motorcycle accidents are not caused by motorcyclists themselves, but by mistakes made by other motorists. Because motorcyclists are more exposed to injuries than other drivers, the stakes tend to be much higher for them if they are involved in a crash.

Any motorcyclist who has been injured in an accident should talk to a personal injury attorney who is experienced in motorcycle injury cases. Because the injuries suffered by motorcyclists can be severe even in seemingly minor crashes, a dedicated attorney is an invaluable resource for any motorcyclist who needs to know what to do following a crash.

Our founding attorney, Scott J. Corwin, has more than 30 years of experience in representing accident victims injured in all forms of bicycle accidents, in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and throughout the state of California.