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May 22, 2012 > Sharing lanes with motorcycles - is it legal?

Sharing lanes with motorcycles - is it legal?

Submitted By Chris Cochran, CA Office of Traffic Safety

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) today released results of the first-ever survey of California motorists and motorcycle riders on the subject of "lane splitting," where motorcycles travel between two lanes with other vehicles travelling the same direction. At the same time, OTS and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) announced that they are joining with other federal, state and local traffic safety, law enforcement, and motorcycle organizations in proclaiming May as "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month."

After more than a decade of steady increases, motorcycle fatalities in California began a decline in 2009. Lane splitting has been a subject for controversy and confusion for years. The OTS survey showed that only 53 percent of vehicle drivers knew that lane splitting is legal in California and 63 percent either somewhat or strongly disapprove of it. Eighty-seven percent of motorcycle riders say they lane split, while seven percent of vehicle drivers admit to having attempted to prevent it.

The key to legal lane splitting for motorcycle riders is doing so in a safe and prudent manner, being cognizant of overall traffic speeds, speed differences, spacing and lane changing patterns of surrounding traffic. Riding too fast is one of the most common things that motorcyclists do to make lane splitting unsafe.

Motorists and other road users are reminded to safely "share the road" with motorcycles during May, and throughout the year, and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Changing the driving habits of motorists and motorcyclists alike will help decrease the numbers of motorcyclists killed and injured in crashes. Motorcyclists are reminded to make sure that they are visible to motorists, and that they follow the rules of the road. All road users are reminded to never drive, ride, walk or bicycle while distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The latest survey results will be incorporated into the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan to help develop additional strategies to reduce motorcycle fatalities and injuries. A motorcyclist is more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes.

A motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle. The message to all drivers and motorcyclists is: share in the responsibility of keeping all road users safe, and do your part by safely "sharing the road." California is the only state in which there is no law concerning lane splitting.

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