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Why is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in California?

In California, it is legal for a motorcycle to ride in between a lane of stopped or slow-moving traffic. The practice is known as “lane-splitting.” While it is currently prohibited in most U.S. states, lane-splitting is explicitly allowed under California law—assuming that motorcyclists follow certain guidelines and operate their bikes in a safe manner. Within this article, our Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things to know about lane splitting in California, including what it is, why it is legal, and what happens if there is a crash.

California Law: Lane Splitting is Legal

Lane Splitting is Legal

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is clear: It is lawful for motorcyclists to lane-split in California. As long as they follow the rules for doing so and can operate their motorcycle in a safe manner, lane-splitting is a permissible practice. It must also be done in a safe and prudent manner.

Note: Motorcycle lane-splitting is actually not lawful in most U.S. jurisdictions. Motorcyclists from California should be aware of local laws when operating in another state. Most U.S. states prohibit motorcyclists from lane-splitting.

Why is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Permitted in Our State?

Why is California among the minority of U.S. jurisdictions that permit motorcycle lane-splitting? While it is a somewhat controversial practice, state lawmakers have cited a number of different benefits related to lane-splitting. Here are some notable reasons why motorcycle lane-splitting is allowed in California:

  • Reduction of Traffic Congestion: One of the key benefits is the mitigation of overall traffic congestion. Motorcycles occupying less space and moving through lanes can free up roadway capacity, leading to smoother traffic flow.
  • Enhanced Rider Safety: By allowing motorcyclists to move between lanes, they are less likely to get rear-ended by inattentive drivers. Unfortunately, rear-end collisions are a relatively common—and extremely dangerous—hazard for motorcyclists.
  • Promotes the Use of Motorcycles: By permitting lane splitting, California encourages the use of motorcycles, which take up less space on the roads compared to cars The policy aligns with broader efforts to mitigate traffic congestion and lower emissions.

Motorcyclists Must Ensure Lane Splitting is Done Safely

While motorcycle lane-splitting is generally permissible in California, it would be a big mistake to view every act of “lane-splitting” by motorcyclists as a lawful act. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has been empowered to put specific safety guidelines in place to regulate motorcycle lane-splitting. In order to lawfully lane split while riding a motorcycle in California, a motorcyclist must comply with the following three key guidelines:

  • A motorcycle must not travel more than 10 MPH faster than other traffic;
  • A motorcycle must refrain from lane splitting when traffic flow is 30 MPH or higher; and
  • A motorcycle must ensure that any act of lane-splitting is done in a safe, prudent manner.

A Motorcycle Lane Splitting Crash Requires a Comprehensive Investigation

Hurt in a motorcycle lane-splitting collision? You need to know your rights and options. After any serious crash, a thorough and comprehensive investigation is a must. Your accident should be investigated by a top Los Angeles personal injury attorney. The cases require meticulous attention to detail, collecting evidence, and interviewing witnesses to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the motorcycle lane-splitting accident. Understanding the dynamics, assessing fault, and navigating insurance policies to secure full and fair financial compensation.

Is a Motorcyclist Always at Fault for a Lane-Splitting Crash in California?

No. It is a common misconception that a motorcyclist is always at fault for a lane-splitting crash in California. Lane-splitting—when done safely and in compliance with state law—is a lawful motorcycle practice in California. If something goes wrong, the motorcycle does not automatically bear the blame. As with all other types of traffic collisions, the determination of fault in a lane-splitting accident is done on a case-by-case basis.

A comprehensive investigation will be needed to assess all relevant factors, including things like the speed of the motorcyclist, the behavior of all parties, and adherence to traffic laws and guidelines for lane splitting. It is possible for other drivers to be found at fault if they were driving distracted, made an unsafe lane change, or exhibited other negligent behaviors that contributed to the collision.

Get Help From Our Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

At Personal Injury Legal Group, our Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorney has the legal expertise that you can trust. Hurt in a lane-splitting crash? We are here to help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. From our law office in Los Angeles, we handle motorcycle lane-splitting accident claims throughout Southern California.

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