Are you taking chances with lane splitting?

The debate rages on between those who say lane splitting is safe and those who say it is dangerous. If you ride a motorcycle on California highways, you may have your own opinion about the controversial action. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between lanes of traffic. While police officers in many states look the other way when motorcycles perform this illegal maneuver, California is the only state that permits bikers to ride between the lanes. 

Nevertheless, the choice to lane split should be made with great caution, and you will have to deal with many hazards. One unavoidable danger is the possibility that other larger vehicles will not see you when they switch lanes. However, you may feel this risk is not as great as the one you take when waiting in line among stand-still traffic. 

Is it ever safe to lane split? 

You are undoubtedly in a vulnerable position when traffic is stopped or crawling and you are on your bike. Rear-end collisions can be catastrophic to someone on a motorcycle, while they may result only in a dented fender to a car or pickup truck. When traffic is slowing and you fear you may remain sitting unprotected, you may choose to move to the dividing line and proceed between the stopped vehicles. The California Highway Patrol offers these safety guidelines for those who lane split: 

  • Do so only when your speed will match the overall speed of the traffic, not faster or slower. 
  • Do not lane split around large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers. 
  • Do not linger in the blind spots of other drivers. 
  • Do not ride between the center and right-hand lanes. 
  • Avoid lane splitting when weather is bad, such as when it is foggy or raining, or when visibility is poor. 
  • Do not lane split when the road is winding or in poor conditions. 
  • Ideally, lane splitting is for very slow-moving traffic and not for when traffic is moving at highway speeds.  

Unfortunately, even when you follow these precautions, some drivers may not see you and may change lanes without realizing you are moving alongside them. There may even be some drivers who inexplicably claim the center line as their territory, moving their cars over the line simply to prevent you from passing. This is a form of road rage, and it can result in accidents and injury. If you decide to exercise your right to lane split, you would be wise to do so with great caution and awareness of the potential dangers. 

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