Numerous motorcycle safety guides urge riders to avoid “lane-splitting” in order to avoid a serious motorcycle accident.
However, lane-splitting has also come to be seen by many as a safe way for motorcyclists to navigate traffic. In fact, one state, California, is on the verge of making lane-splitting legal.
Could the same happen here in Florida?
What Is Lane-Splitting?
Lane-splitting is the practice of traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on multiple-lane roads. As the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) explains, California has actually permitted lane-splitting for decades – but it has been the only state to do so.
“While not specifically permitted or prohibited in the California Vehicle Code, lane-splitting authority comes from the California Highway Patrol,” the AMA explains. “In early 2013, the CHP published lane-splitting general guidelines for the first time. While the guidelines do not carry the force of law, they provide clear indicators under which a motorcyclist might be cited for unsafe or imprudent behavior.”
Recently, a study commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety and the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California-Berkeley found that lane-splitting motorcyclists were considerably less likely to experience serious injury in accidents than motorcyclists who were not lane-splitting at the time of their collisions.
Lane-splitting is safer for motorcyclists in part because their movement allows them to be seen by motorists, the study found.
Groups Call for Study of Lane-Splitting
As of this writing, the California Senate has a bill before it that would “authorize a motorcycle that has two wheels on contact with the ground to be driven between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane if the motorcycle is not driven at a speed of more than 50 miles per hour and is driven no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic.” The California Assembly approved the bill in May.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), in association with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), says that the safety implications of lane splitting should be studied and calls for motorcyclists to be educated about lane-use strategies, including the use of HOV lanes.
“Motorcyclists who have significant room to maneuver while riding within a traffic lane can use this margin to position themselves for maximum visibility to other motorists while maintaining safety and control of the traffic situation,” the MSF states.
Both the MSF and NHTSA point to the influential 1981 “Hurt Report,” which found evidence that lane-splitting on multiple-lane roads such as interstate highways could slightly reduce motorcycle crash frequency – as compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.
The California law, which is expected to be adopted, would curb common practice, according to the Sacramento Bee. Restrictions in the law could actually cause lane-splitting motorcyclists to slow down.
Motorists, on the other hand, complain that “cyclists startle them by coming seemingly out of nowhere, sometimes flying by at high speed, just inches from cars. If an unsuspecting driver makes a lane change at the wrong moment – bam!” the Bee writes.
Lane-Splitting Remains Illegal in Florida
Here in Florida, motorcyclists should keep in mind that lane-splitting is expressly illegal. While there may be some movement to change that, action of consequence is a long way off.
It is likely that more research that agrees with the Hurt and UC Berkeley studies will be necessary for a legal change to occur in the Sunshine State.
Meanwhile, motorcyclists who abide by the law and get into accidents involving motorists should be wary of drivers who try to blame them. The old “I never saw him” claim can imply illegal maneuvers like lane-splitting.
At Frank M. Eidson, P.A., we represent motorcycle riders who have been injured in accidents caused by negligent motor vehicle drivers. We can protect your rights and seek compensation you deserve. Speak to the Orlando Motorcycle Accident attorneys at the law offices of Frank M. Eidson, P.A., or contact us online today if you have been in a motorcycle accident. We can provide a free review of your case.