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Lane splitting and motorcycle safety

Lane splitting refers to the practice of a motorcycle operator riding between two lanes of traffic or sharing a lane with another motor vehicle. The practice is a hotly debated one, and though several states have attempted to legalize it in recent years, California continues to be the only state that endorses it. This is because many states do not fully trust that the practice is safe. 

Findings from a University of Berkeley Study, which Cycle World published, indicate that motorcycle operators who white line—another name for lane share—are significantly less likely to get hit from behind. They are also less likely to sustain head or torso injuries. Researchers examined nearly 6,000 traffic crashes involving motorcycles between 2012 and 2013, including 997 motorcyclists who were white lining prior to the collision.

Compared to riders who rode in their own lanes, lane-sharing cyclists were noticeably less likely to get hit from behind (2.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent). Additionally, they were significantly less likely to sustain torso injuries (19 percent compared to 29 percent), head injuries (nine percent compared to 17 percent) or fatal injuries (1.2 percent compared to three percent).

A Safe Transportation Research & Education Center, University of California Berkeley survey confirms what most already know: that the majority of the non-motorcycle riding members of the public disapproves of lane-splitting. A significant reason for the disapproval is the general perception that motorcycle riders are reckless. However, the same study suggests otherwise.

Four out of five riders surveyed admit to splitting lanes while operating on the interstate. However, 15 percent of those riders claim to split lanes only when traffic is moving at 30 MPH or less. 27 percent report white-lining when traffic is moving slower than 20 MPH, and 38 percent say they only lane share when traffic is stop-and-go. A small portion of surveyed riders—three, two and seven percent—engaged in lane splitting when traffic was moving at 60, 50 and 40 MPH respectively. Those surveyed say they only travel up to 15 MPH faster than surrounding traffic when engaging in the practice.



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