Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Lane splitting is legal in California. No law prohibits a motorcyclist from driving between rows of stopped or moving vehicles. California Motor Vehicle Code § 21658.1 allows lane splitting on divided and undivided streets, roads and highways if it can be done safely.

You may also hear lane splitting referred to as white lining or filtering.

Our motorcycle accident lawyers in San Bernardino at LA Century Law explain California’s lane splitting law and what you need to know if you’re in an accident.

California Lane Splitting Law

What is lane splitting?

Lane splitting is the practice of a motorcyclist weaving in and around slower traffic. When the regular flow of traffic is slowed or stopped, the motorcyclist may drive in and around other traffic.

No law prohibits lane splitting. California Motor Vehicle Code § 21658.1 discusses lane splitting, but only by providing a definition and states that the Department of California Highway Patrol may develop education guidelines for safe practices.

A motorcyclist may engage in lane splitting only when it is safe. For example, if a motorcyclist engages in lane splitting in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, they are guilty of reckless driving under California Motor Vehicle Code § 23103.

Is lane sharing the same as lane splitting?

Lane sharing is not the same thing as lane splitting. When motorcycles share a lane, they ride two abreast in the same direction. That’s different from lane splitting, where a single motorcycle weaves past slower traffic at its own pace.

Is it legal to split lanes in California?

It is legal to split lanes in California if the motorcyclist can do so safely. Whether it is safe to lane split depends on the entirety of the circumstances. California Highway Patrol has issued guidelines stating that the driver must be mindful of overall speeds, speed differentials, road conditions and traffic flow when deciding whether to split lanes.

What speed can I lane split in California?

While there is no official speed for lane splitting in any law or current guideline in California, previous guidelines recommended lane splitting only if overall traffic is flowing at a speed of 30 miles per hour or less, with no more than a 10 mph differential between the motorcyclist and other traffic.

However, it is up to each motorcyclist to determine if they can lane split safely at speeds present on the road.

Motorcyclists Splitting Lanes in California

Lane splitting is illegal in most states. California is unique in that lane splitting is allowed, if the motorcyclist can fully comply with traffic laws.

The California Highway Patrol has issued updated guidelines for lane splitting. Their best practices allow for lane splitting if:

  • It can be done safely.
  • The motorcyclist is visible, avoiding blind spots and wearing bright or reflective clothing
  • Lanes 1 and 2 are preferred over other lanes.
  • The entire environment is safe, including the width of the lanes, vehicle sizes, roadway conditions, weather and light.
  • Drivers are reasonable, respectful, responsible and road aware.
  • The driver is competent and experienced.
  • California motor vehicle laws are always followed.
  • Motorcyclists remain conscious of crash risk.

A motorcyclist must exercise their best judgment at all times.

If you’re lane splitting, can a motor vehicle driver open their door to block you?

Motor vehicle drivers are legally forbidden from doing this. Opening a car door to intentionally block a motorcyclist is a dangerous and illegal practice. Any kind of intentional impeding of a motorcyclist is against the law and may make the driver liable for an accident and injuries.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting and Legal Liability

Lane splitting by itself doesn’t make a motorcyclist at fault for an accident. In general, the motorcyclist is fully within their rights to do it. Furthermore, anyone else who impedes the motorcyclist, by blocking traffic or opening their car door, creates an unsafe situation. A driver who impedes a motorcyclist lane splitting may be responsible for the accident and injuries that result.

In a motorcycle accident claim, the defense may allege that the motorcyclist was unsafe in lane splitting or other driving behavior. You must gather evidence to refute these allegations. In addition, you must prove that the other party acted negligently and caused the accident. The evidence you present may include accident reconstruction, evidence of weather and lighting at the time of the accident, dash cameras, general traffic and road patterns and witness testimony.

Get Help from a Lawyer

Remember, lane splitting is legal. A motorcycle accident claim is based on a motor vehicle driver or another party being at fault for an accident.

If you’re accused of being at fault for lane splitting, LA Century Law can help you defend against the allegations. We fight for the compensation that you deserve. We can work to prove fault, fight unfair claims of negligence and defend your right to participate in safe and legal lane splitting in California.

If you or a loved one has been in a motorcycle accident, contact us. We can evaluate your case, respond to any defenses raised and discuss how we can fight for justice for you. Call or message us now.

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