Lane splitting legalized in California

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/24/2016

The practice of driving motorcycles between lanes of California freeway traffic to bypass congestion will soon be legal. California is the only state in the country that allows so-called lane splitting with motorcycles.

State law neither permits nor forbids the practice of riding motorcycles between rows of stopped or slowed traffic.

In 2013 the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Motor Vehicles posted on their websites and provided printed materials informing motorcyclists about the safety guidelines for the practice. The information was soon removed after a complaint that the guidelines could be misinterpreted as enforceable laws.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, said removal of the guidelines left a giant gap in regards to traffic safety.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill intended to shrink the gap. Previously AB51, the new law defines lane splitting and sets educational guidelines for the practice.

In addition, the law clarifies the state police are permitted to develop educational guidelines related to lane splitting to help ensure the safety of motorcyclists and occupants of other vehicles.

Advocates say that lane splitting is beneficial because it saves motorcyclists time and fuel. They say the practice also helps many motorcycles avoid overheating while sitting in traffic.

A 2014 University of California, Berkeley study also found the practice helps to reduce congestion and keep roads safer.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, said in prepared remarks the new rule puts California at the forefront of commonsense safety legislation.

“Signing of this bill will bring legitimacy to this practice and help to keep our roads safer and our drivers – both motorcyclists and motorists – better educated,” Quirk stated.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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