Lane Splitting Motorcycle Accidents

Two riders lane splitting.jpg

Lane Splitting Motorcycle Accidents

I’m Ed Smith, a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Napa. When a motorcycle rides between two lanes of slowly moving or stopped cars, typically in a traffic jam, it is known as lane splitting. They did this in Mission Impossible 5 going at high speeds on the highway in North Africa!

If an accident takes place while lane splitting occurred, whether the car or the motorcycle is at fault will depend on the state laws regarding lane splitting, the opinion of the law enforcement officer and the judge, and the specific actions of the motorcycle rider as well as the motorist before the accident.

Is Lane Splitting Illegal?

Although lane splitting is not recognized as a lawful maneuver in most states, they also don’t prohibit it specifically. But the courts usually interpret lane splitting to be illegal.

California, in particular, is one state that specifically allows lane splitting, provided it is done safely and prudently. But what constitutes a prudent and safe manner of lane splitting is up to interpretation of the police and the judge.

Liability in a Lane Splitting Accident

Very close proximity of the motorcycle and the car in case of lane splitting makes it a very potential cause of accidents. The risk of accident increases further because car drivers do not anticipate that a motorcycle will pass them in stopped or slowed traffic. Most people do not ride their motorcycle like Blade did in those movies – for a sound reason at that!

An accident that occurs during lane splitting by a motorcycle will often lead to the fault being attributed to the motorcyclist. If the court or the insurance adjuster determines that the carelessness of the motorcycle rider was a major reason for the accident, the bike rider may find it hard to recover damages.

But if the motorcyclist can prove that the accident partly occurred due to the other driver, they may be fully or partially compensated for injuries and damage to property. This could be possible if the other vehicle was weaving or changing lanes, or if the driver of that vehicle was not paying attention or was using the phone.

Some of the factors that may help a motorcycle rider prove this claim include:

  • The motorcycle rider was not weaving between cars or in and out of a lane, and was riding carefully
  • The motorcyclist had plenty of experience as a rider
  • The motorcycle rider has done a safety course in motorcycle riding
  • The driver of the other vehicle did something that was riskier than lane splitting (such as, drifting to another lane, or changing the lane abruptly without signaling)

The motorcycle rider in such case should try to support their version, if possible, with statements of witnesses and a police report.

Tips for Lane Splitting Safety

If a motorcycle rider chooses to lane split in California, they should make sure that it is done in a completely safe manner. That could be their best defense in the event of an accident. If the accident does occur, the evidence of their safe motorcycle riding behavior can increase the chances that the judge or the insurance company will determine that the motorcycle rider was not at fault in the accident.

The following tips will help increase the motorcycle rider’s safety while they are lane splitting:

  • Be aware and alert of the vehicles around you.
  • Wear reflective clothing and ride with the headlights on.
  • Go into the area cautiously where you intend to lane split, and wait until the cars in both the lanes have slowed down to the same speed. When one of the lanes is moving faster, vehicles have a higher likelihood for switching lanes suddenly – and hitting you in the process.
  • When traveling in the blind spot of a car, exercise extra caution.
  • Ride the bike at a slightly faster speed than the traffic flow, but do not go at a very fast speed by the stopped or barely moving cars.
  • Look out for the signs of a car that could be changing lanes (for example, the driver of the car is viewing into the rear or side view mirror; they have their turning signal lights on).
  • In case the other vehicles get too close, do not hesitate to honk. Wait until there is safe distance to go between them.
  • Once the speed of the traffic is restored to about 30 mph, return to your lane.

If you must do lane splitting while riding your motorcycle in California, follow these simple tips and respect the rules to help maintain your own safety as well as that of others on the road.

Related Articles by Napa Motorcycle Accident Attorney, Ed Smith:

Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Napa

I’m Ed Smith, a Napa Motorcycle Accident Attorney. Motorcycle accidents are among some of the most devastating types of collisions. If you or your loved one has been injured or even killed in a motorcycle crash, I can help. Please  call me at (707) 564-1900 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. Alternatively, you can also reach me through my website AutoAccident.com.

Since 1982 I have served the Napa and Northern California community, assiting injured victims and their families in recovery with wrongful death and personal injury cases.  My valued past clients have left reviews of their experiences working with me on: Avvo, Yelp and Google.

My million-dollar verdicts and settlements earned for clients has been recognized by the Million Dollar Forum. You can review my past Verdicts and Settlements by visiting my website, AutoAccident.com.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Two Motorcycles Lane Splitting in California by Eric Schmuttenmaer. CC BY-SA 2.0
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