The risks of lane splitting leading to motor vehicle accidents

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2023 | Personal Injury |

Motorcyclists in California enjoy the unique privilege of lane splitting, a practice that allows them to navigate through traffic by driving between lanes of slow-moving or stopped cars. While lane splitting can save time and prevent motorcycles from overheating in traffic, it also presents unique dangers. This maneuver can lead to car accidents, with the motorcyclist typically suffering the most severe consequences.

Understanding the risks and reasons why lane splitting can cause accidents in California is important for both motorcyclists and drivers. Awareness of these dangers can encourage safer driving habits and ultimately reduce the number of lane-splitting-related accidents.

Reduced reaction time and space

One of the primary risks of lane splitting is the significantly reduced reaction time and space. Motorcycles moving between lanes have less space to maneuver and less time to react to changes in the surrounding traffic conditions. Sudden movements by cars, such as changing lanes without signaling, can result in a collision.

Limited visibility

Motorcyclists are often in the blind spots of cars when lane splitting. A driver may not see a motorcyclist in time to avoid a collision, especially when changing lanes or making a turn.

Unexpectedly opened car doors

Motorcyclists lane splitting near stopped or slow-moving traffic face the risk of a car door unexpectedly opening. An opened door leaves the motorcyclist with little to no time to react, leading to a potential accident.

Speed differential

A significant difference in speed between the motorcyclist and the surrounding vehicles also contributes to lane-splitting accidents. If a motorcyclist is moving much faster than the traffic flow while lane splitting, the chances of an accident increase.

Safer lane splitting

To mitigate these risks, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles recommends specific guidelines for safer lane splitting. These guidelines suggest that motorcyclists should not exceed 10 mph faster than other traffic and avoid lane splitting when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster. Motorcyclists should also consider the total environment, including the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles and road conditions.

While lane splitting can offer advantages for motorcyclists, it also poses significant risks, contributing to car accidents in California. Recognizing these dangers and adhering to recommended guidelines can help motorcyclists lane split more safely, protecting both themselves and other road users.