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California Lane-Splitting Laws

When you’re on a motorcycle, you’re at risk more severely than the average motorist. Because of this, motorcycles face different laws, like those on lane-splitting. 

There are still many motorists who don’t know how to safely share the road with motorcyclists. If you find yourself confused about lane-splitting laws in California and need clarification, Crowell Law Offices can help. We can answer any questions you have about your legal rights after an accident.

Is Lane-Splitting Really Safe?

California’s lane-splitting laws state that motorcyclists can ride between two lanes of traffic or between cars stopped at a red light as long as they obey all other traffic laws. However, the law itself is vague and there are different ways to interpret it.

An initial study found that lane splitting is relatively safe when done cautiously. But opponents say it increases the risk of sideswiping and merging or lane-change collisions. Motorcyclists who support lane splitting say it can reduce traffic congestion and prevent deadly rear-end motorcycle accidents. 

But what does the law say about lane splitting? Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Do not lane-split if traffic is traveling at speeds greater than 30 mph
  • Do not exceed 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic
  • Be able to stop within the space of your lane if necessary
  • Do not ride more than two abreast in a single lane when lane-splitting

When Lane-Splitting is Prohibited by Law

If you get into an accident, speak to a lawyer immediately because there are situations where lane-splitting is illegal, including:

  • On freeways or any road with four or more lanes
  • In school zones during school hours
  • If you cannot see clearly in your mirrors and behind you for at least 200 feet
  • While attempting to split lanes at an intersection or between two moving lines of traffic where a normal lane change would be considered illegal

In these situations, you may have been injured by a careless driver engaging in illegal lane splitting. In worse situations, you may be facing claims that you were breaking lane-splitting laws and acting carelessly when seeking compensation for your injuries. Talk to your lawyer about your options to protect your future. 

Guidelines are Available to Motorcyclists

California’s highway patrol has created an educational lane-splitting guide to help motorcyclists understand and safely lane split. 

The guide was developed as part of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, a program focused on reducing motorcycle crashes, injuries, and fatalities. It can help answer any questions you might have about how and when you can use your motorcycle to move through stopped or slow traffic by splitting lanes. 

Importantly, the document specifies that it does not contain any laws or regulations governing lane splitting, but instead provides tips for motorcyclists who choose to split lanes on California roads. Your lawyer can provide further guidance if you’re hurt in a motorcycle accident involving lane splitting. 

Get Help Interpreting Lane-Splitting Laws in California

California lane-splitting laws are among the most complex and confusing traffic laws in any state. That means you may need help

If you or a relative has been injured while riding a motorcycle, speak with our attorneys at Crowell Law Offices. Call 916-303-2800 or complete our online form to get a free consultation to discuss your case and get ongoing guidance going forward.