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Is Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Legal in California?

August 1, 2019 San Jose / CA / USA - Heavy traffic on one of the freeways crossing Silicon Valley; motorcyclist splitting lanes visible among cars

Motorcycles offer several advantages over passenger cars. They tend to be cheaper, they are more fuel-efficient, and riders can get around traffic jams by riding around stopped cars. Motorcycles are also potentially dangerous, however. Aggressive biking maneuvers such as lane-splitting or “white-lining” may help a biker skip through traffic, but they can lead to serious injury if a driver fails to notice the biker and makes a sudden lane change, an unexpected turn, or opens their door. For that reason, lane-splitting is illegal in many states. But what about California? Read on to learn about California’s motorcycle traffic safety laws and reach out to a dedicated Palmdale motorcycle accident lawyer if you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle crash in the Antelope Valley.

Lane-Splitting is Not Illegal in California

The most direct answer to the question “is lane-splitting legal in California” is “kind of.” California has never passed a law to make lane-splitting illegal. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): “California law does not allow or prohibit motorcycles from passing other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane, a practice often called ‘lane splitting,’ ‘lane sharing’ or ‘filtering.’” Because lane-splitting is not strictly prohibited, you might say that it is legal.

However, like any driving maneuver, the legality depends on the situation, the circumstances of the road, the weather, other traffic, and how it is executed. Unsafe or reckless driving is not legal, regardless of the form it takes. The DMV issued a set of guidelines for proper lane-splitting, but due to a legal battle, the guidelines were later taken down. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has issued a series of “tips” for lane-splitting safely. These are not binding rules, but they provide guidance on how a biker should lane-split without endangering themselves or others.

If you own a motorcycle and you want to ride the white line, you are allowed to do so. But make sure that you take account of your surroundings, the flow of traffic, weather and road conditions, and generally act with care and consideration. Additionally, the CHP makes explicit that riding on the shoulder is not lane-splitting and is definitively illegal. As long as you are operating your bike safely and in accordance with all other traffic laws, you are OK lane-splitting.

If you are not a biker and you see a motorcycle riding nearby while you are in traffic, remember that lane-splitting is permissible in California. Do not open your door or make a turn or lane change without signaling and making sure that you know where the motorcyclist is in relation to your vehicle. Everyone on the road has a responsibility to everyone else to keep the streets safe for travel.

Call Our Palmdale Injury Law firm for Help After a Motorcycle Crash in the Antelope Valley

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident in California, speak with a talented and capable Palmdale motorcycle accident attorney about pursuing a claim for damages by calling the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990.

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