Lane splitting: Time saver or dangerous driving?

Lane splitting. It’s controversial. It sparks anger in other drivers and can be very dangerous. But is it legal?

In most places, the answer is no. But like many things, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

What is lane splitting?

In case you haven’t heard the term before, let’s answer the basic question: What is lane splitting? It’s when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving vehicles going in the same direction. It also can be referred to as lane sharing, white-lining or filtering.

For many motorcyclists, it’s a time-saving necessity. For other drivers, it’s a nuisance and another hazard to avoid.

Where is lane splitting legal?

In Europe and many other parts of the world, where traffic is even more congested than in our country, lane splitting is widely legal. In our country, the opposite is true.

In California, lane splitting is legal if it is done safely. However, it is up to a police officer to interpret what constitutes “safely” because there is no law explicitly stating it is legal. There just isn’t a law blocking it.

Even though it is legal in the state, California’s DMV handbook for motorcycles advises significant caution regarding lane splitting: “Cars and motorcycles each need a full lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is not safe. Riding between rows of stopped or moving cars in the same lane can leave you vulnerable. A car could turn suddenly or change lanes, a door could open, or a hand could come out of a window. Discourage lane sharing by others.”

At least 37 states have laws on the books that specifically prohibit lane splitting. For example, in Washington, the law specifically states, “No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”

The rest have other ordinances which can be interpreted to make the practice illegal. For example, New Mexico does not address lane splitting by name, but has language requiring turn signals be used continuously for at least 100 feet before changing lanes, as well as code stating, “A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”

California law breeds confusion

A study released earlier this year by the California Office of Traffic Safety found that nearly half of the drivers they surveyed are still unaware that lane splitting by motorcycle riders is legal in California.

The report showed that only 53 percent of vehicle drivers knew that lane splitting is legal, yet 87 percent of motorcycle riders said they lane split. Seven percent of vehicle drivers admitted to having attempted to prevent it. Amazingly, 84 percent of riders said they had never had an incident while lane splitting.

Tell us what you think!

What do you think about lane splitting? Do you do it? Did you know that it is illegal? Should it be legal?

We would love to hear your answers to these questions. Please leave a comment on this blog and let us know your thoughts about this controversial subject.

1 comment on “Lane splitting: Time saver or dangerous driving?

  1. At speeds less than 15MPH it is safe and eases trafic flow as well as keeping the Harley motor cooler (semi-hot)

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