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Lane splitting guidelines in California

California is the only state that has seen a marked improvement in traffic congestion by allowing motorcycles to split lanes. Consequently, it is the only state that has passed legislation to allow lane splitting, though a few other states have tried. However, despite the benefits lane splitting has on traffic, many find the practice unnerving and many more feel as if it is the number one contributing cause of California’s high number of motorcycle fatalities.

According to the Los Angeles Times, though unnerving to many drivers, lane splitting, when done intelligently, is actually safer than not-splitting. This is because it reduces the risk of a passenger vehicle hitting a motorcycle operator from behind, which could result in potentially more severe injuries than those sustained in a side-swipe motorcycle accident. That said, lane splitting can be dangerous, and it often is when both rider and other drivers fail to exercise extreme caution.

To minimize both the number and severity of lane splitting accidents, California Highway Patrol worked with the DMV, the Office of Traffic Safety, the California Department of Transportation and multiple motorcycle safety organizations to develop a set of guidelines by which all drivers and motorcycle operators should abide. Though the lane splitting guidelines are not legally enforceable, the CHP did design them to assist motorcycle riders in the practice and make it less dangerous.

In its safety tips list, the CHP advises motorcycle operators that it is generally safer to split between the far left lanes than any other lanes of traffic. The document also advises motorcyclists to avoid lane splitting next to large vehicles, such as big rigs, buses and motor homes. The CHP encourages all motorists to check their blind spots and mirrors before changing lanes and to signal with their intentions before changing lanes or merging.

In addition to providing safety tips, the CHP also advises other motorists on what is considered illegal when it comes to lane splitting. For instance, trying to impede or block a motorcyclist in a way that could cause him or her harm is illegal, as is opening a vehicle door to try and impede a motorcycle.

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