Understanding the California Lane Splitting Law

What is Lane Splitting?

In 2016, California become the first state to officially legalize lane splitting. Before, it was not considered illegal but there were no regulations. Therefore, passing the California Lane Splitting Law enabled California Highway Patrol to define legal versus illegal lane splitting. Still the law does not guarantee safety for riders or drivers. Both need to follow smart driving techniques to be able to share the road and protect against accidents.

What is Lane Splitting?

California Vehicle Code 21658.1 defines motorcycle lane splitting (also called lane filtering, lane sharing, or whitelining) as “means driving a motorcycle, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” California Lane Splitting Law gives motorcycles the ability to move past traffic and avoid road hazards.

Where is Lane Splitting Legal?

Currently, in the U.S, lane splitting is only legal in California. However, lane splitting is legal in most European countries.

Does California Lane Splitting Law Make Roads More Dangerous?

Unfortunately, there is not enough data to determine if it does or not –– making the California Lane Splitting Law controversial. Drivers often see lane splitting as dangerous and reckless while motorcyclists believe it improves traffic congestion, keeps them safer by decreasing chances of being rear ended, and helps them avoid overheating.

Safe Practices for California Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Even though drivers and riders have different feelings about California Lane Splitting Law, it is still important to follow safe practices on the road. To help, California Highway Patrol developed educational safety guidelines to minimize the chances of motorcycle injury and accidents during lane splitting.

Here are lane splitting tips for motorcyclists:

    • Only lane split when traffic is going under 30 MPHs.
    • Travel at a safe speed. The rule is to travel at only 10mph faster than the traffic around you. Going too fast in traffic increases the chance for accidents as cars may not be able to see you. And going at a slower speed allows you time to avoid hazards or unexpected lane changes.
    • The safest lanes to split are the furthest left lanes. One because drivers are used to motorcycles on the outside and expect it. As well as, lanes on the right at freeway exits and ramps have more cars changing lanes.
    • Bad weather. Don’t do lane splitting if it is rainy, foggy, at dusk, or bad conditions because the more likely drivers will not see you.
    • Stay focused. Make sure you are aware at all times. Keep an eye out for unexpected car movement, the traffic, road width, and large cars.
    • Don’t do lane splitting on unfamiliar roads.
    • Help other drivers to see you. Wear bright colors and use daylights.
  • Don’t ride in drivers blindspots.

Keep in mind, you still have to obey speed limits, rules of the road, and lane split responsibly if not you can be ticketed.

California Lane Splitting Safety Practices for Drivers

    • Signal early to alert motorcyclists of your lane change.
    • Double check blindspots as motorcycles lane splitting are harder to spot.
    • Take time changing lanes. If you see a motorcyclist coming up fast, it is safer to let them pass and then change lanes.
    • Listen for motorcycles.

These practices should be used especially in traffic when motorcyclists are going faster than you. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road and awareness of motorcycles on the road splitting lanes.

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