In a move usually reserved for stuntmen and action movies, more and more California motorcycles riders are engaging in an activity known as lane splitting. Lane splitting is activity where motorcycle riders use the space in between normal traffic lanes when traffic is slowed or stopped. A visual depiction of the act can be seen here.
While some studies show that lane splitting has its benefits if done safely, lane splitting done incorrectly can be dangerous and can often lead to serious motorcycle accidents causing injury or death.
According to a University of California Berkeley report, of the 5,969 California motorcycle crashes in 2013, 997 crashes were caused by motorcyclists who were engaging in lane splitting. The risk of serious injury or death on a motorcycle is nearly thirty times higher than the risk of serious injury or death in car accident, and engaging in risky behavior while operating a motorcycle only increases this chance of injury. Even when a rider wears a helmet, there is still a significant risk of injury if the rider is thrown from the motorcycle.
Is Splitting Lanes Legal?
California is currently the only state that does not prohibit lane splitting. In the California legislature, there have been numerous attempts to regulate the practice of lane splitting, but most of these have not gotten the necessary traction to become law.
The California Highway Patrol had previously released detailed guidelines on lane splitting in a safe manner, but after a complaint about the rulemaking process of those guidelines, has since removed these guidelines from its website. The California Highway patrol currently only suggests that lane splitting be done in a “safe and prudent” manner. However, in the context of lane splitting, safe and prudent currently has no statutory definition, so this phrase is up for interpretation by an officer issuing a ticket, or the judgment of a court.
Who is Liable in a Lane Splitting Motorcycle Accident?
While it is not always the case, a motorcyclist engaged in the activity of lane-splitting will often be the party who is at fault if there is an accident. The motorcycle is not usually following a regular traffic pattern, so the rider may be determined to be at fault.
Insurance companies may find that the motorcyclist was careless when operating his or her vehicle in between lanes, which may prevent the motorcyclist from being able to recover any damages. There are some exceptions that California has created that prevents drivers from opening doors into moving traffic, but each accident will have different facts, so it is important to consult an experienced attorney after being in an accident with a motorcycle.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
Whether you are the operator of a motorcycle or a driver who has been hit by a motorcyclist it is important to consult with an attorney experienced in motorcycle accidents. Injury Trial Lawyers, APC is here to help you get the compensation after a motorcycle accident. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.