Lane Splitting Laws: The Essentials

The American Motorcyclist Association has placed significant emphasis on operator and passenger safety, based on the unavoidable reality that on every type of public roadway motorcyclists encounter a myriad of challenges. There’s no mystery behind these “challenges;” a motorcyclist is exposed to unsafe conditions around them based on the nature of riding a cycle – conditions that are better defended against in a closed-roof vehicle.

In many countries, excluding the United States, “lane splitting” and what is known as “filtering” are normal, legal practices for motorcyclists – particularly in highly urbanized areas of Europe and Asia, where cycle and scooter operators are actually expected to pass between conventional vehicles and “filter” (advance) to the front of the group. Recent events in the U.S., though, have renewed motorcyclists’ interests in lane splitting, especially in California where the action is deemed legal.

In October 2012, The California Highway Patrol clarified its position on the legality of lane splitting in the Golden State, citing official lane splitting guidelines for riders and messages for drivers. According to CHP officials:

• Lane splitting by motorcycles is not illegal in California when done in a safe and prudent manner.
• Motorists should not take it upon themselves to discourage motorcyclists from lane splitting.
• Intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider is illegal (CVC 22400).
• Opening a vehicle door to impede a motorcycle is illegal (CVC 22517).
• Never drive while distracted.
• Motorists can help keep motorcyclists and all road users safe by:

1. Checking mirrors and blind spots, especially before changing lanes or turning.
2. Signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
3. Allowing more following distance, three or four seconds, when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

Important to keep in mind, according to top California motorcycle accident attorneys like Hector Gancedo, is that while lane splitting is legal in the Golden State, it also increases the risk of an auto accident due to blind spot riding, vehicles switching lanes without signaling intent and more. Remember to always ride safe! In the event that you or a loved one is injured in a motorcycle accident that happens while lane splitting, fill out our FREE consultation form and tell us about your accident. We will get back to you with consultation and necessary information to begin your motorcycle accident defense.