Lane-splitting might be legal in California, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the safest practice. There are debates about the safety and dangers of lane-splitting, with those against it citing issues such as startling other motorists, speeding, and drivers merging on top of motorcyclists. There are certain injuries that lane-splitting might increase the risk of, including road rash and head and brain injuries. Here’s what to know about these types of accidents in California.
The Laws of Lane-Splitting
When investigating an accident involving a lane-splitting motorcycle, authorities will try to ascertain whether either party involved was breaking a roadway rule at the time – for example, if the motorist was texting and driving or if the motorcyclist was speeding. A broken roadway rule can lead to determining fault for the crash, which is necessary if the injured party wants to recover from the at-fault party. The legalization of lane-splitting in CA is not without parameters. However, what is “legal” in lane-splitting is still a gray area.
The CA Department of Motor Vehicles recently removed its information on lane-splitting guidelines after a petitioner complained that there was no formal lawmaking process for enforcing these rules. While lane-splitting is technically not illegal in California, motorcyclists can still get into trouble for doing so in a reckless or careless manner. To stay within the rather blurry lines of the law, motorcyclists should obey general best practices for lane-splitting. If in doubt, stay within your lane until you feel it’s safe to maneuver between lanes.
General guidelines include not traveling more than 10 miles per hour faster than other traffic while lane-splitting. Motorcyclists should not attempt to lane-split if traffic is moving at or above 30 miles per hour. It is typically safer to lane-spit between the two left-most lanes on a highway rather than between other lanes. Motorcyclists should consider environmental conditions such as rough roads or rain prior to lane-splitting. Motorcyclists must carry out this maneuver with respect to other roadway users – never putting the lives or safety of others in danger while lane-splitting.
Comparative Fault for Lane-Splitting
Motorcyclists have a duty to lane-split in a safe, prudent, and legal manner. Failing to do so can result in loss of ability to recover damages. California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means an injured party may still recover even if he/she is 99% at fault. The courts will reduce the injured motorcyclist’s compensation according to his/her percentage of fault. Lane-splitting safely can help minimize a motorcyclist’s degree of fault (thereby maximizing compensation) for a subsequent accident.
Your Legal Options
Don’t assume you are ineligible for recovery because you were lane-splitting in an unsafe way. You could still recover, at least partially. A good attorney may be able to help you prove the other driver was more at fault for the crash than you were. Other motorists should know that lane-splitting by motorcyclists is not illegal when done correctly. If you suffered broken bones, road rash, head/brain injury, crush injuries, or other harms in any type of motorcycle accident in CA, talk to a personal injury attorney about your legal opportunities.