What is Lane Splitting?
When motorcycle drivers choose to drive in the unused area between vehicles moving in the same direction, it is called lane splitting. Usually practiced during times of heavy traffic or standstills due to construction or vehicle accidents, lane splitting allows motorcycles to pass slowed or stopped cars until the motorcycle driver returns to normal lane traffic. Currently, lane splitting is considered a “special privilege” afforded to California motorcycle drivers, although it is still technically illegal in that state. California’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s handbook advises motorcycle drivers engaged in lane splitting to watch out for cars suddenly changing lanes or opening doors during times of standstill.
A State Assembly bill making lane splitting legal in California appears to be heading for closure, which would make it fully legal for motorcyclists to use lane splitting as a way to move through dense traffic on multiple lane highways.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Lane Splitting
Proponents of lane splitting claim that it relieves traffic congestion and can improve the comfort of motorcyclists during extreme weather by allowing them to move ahead of vehicles stalled in traffic.
Alternately, opponents of lane splitting say that lane splitting could potentially incite instances of road rage as frustrated drivers watch motorcyclists move freely past them while they are stuck in traffic. In fact, road rage is now among the top causes of vehicle accidents in the U.S.
Interestingly, many cities in California are listed among the top 25 worst U.S. cities for road rage incidences (on a local note, Miami, FL is also included in that list).
Is Lane Splitting Really Safe?
According to a report by UC Berkeley transportation researchers, lane splitting does not appear to present any greater accident risk to motorcyclists or vehicle drivers than any other traffic maneuver. Analysis of lane splitting behavior found this practice to be relatively safe when performed in traffic moving no faster than 50 mph by motorcyclists who are not exceeding the speed of other cars by 15 mph or less. Authors of this report state that it was “the difference in speed between motorcyclists and surrounding traffic that was the primary predictor of injury than just speed alone”.
Data included in the report also evaluated motorcycle-vehicle collisions in California between June, 2012 and August, 2013. Of almost 6,000 traffic accidents reported by CHiP, 997 involved speeding motorcycles engaged in lane splitting at the time of the accident. However, this data also revealed that lane splitters wore better helmets and were less likely to be intoxicated or carrying a passenger.
Should Florida Make Lane Splitting Legal?
Florida is second to California in the number of registered motorcycles on its highways–over 550,000. Although it is illegal in Florida to engage in lane splitting, many Florida motorcyclists use this driving maneuver to bypass areas of traffic congestion and sometimes lane split even when it isn’t necessary.
Florida motorists should also be aware of the difference between lane splitting and lane sharing. While lane splitting involves a motorcyclist driving within the space between two cars moving in the same direction on a highway or interstate, lane sharing is the practice of motorcyclists occupying the same lane. Lane sharing is legal in Florida.
When a motorcyclist is lane splitting and causes an accident while lane splitting, they will be doubly ticketed for the accident and for lane splitting. However, if the lane splitting motorcyclist can prove the other vehicle driver contributed to an accident in which they were involved (for example, the driver was weaving in and out of traffic or using a cell phone), the motorcyclist may have good reason to sue the vehicle driver for compensation.
If you have been involved in accident due to a motorcyclist lane splitting, contact the law team of Abrahamson & Uiterwyk today by calling 1-800-753-5203 to discuss possible compensation for your injuries.