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Lane Splitting: Is it Safe?


Lane Splitting in CaliforniaMotorcyclists and bicyclists in 49 of the 50 states may have never seen lane splitting in action – or even heard of the term. Only one state – California – allows motorcycles and bikes to travel between lanes of cars going in the same direction. So if you have ever been stuck in traffic in California and watched motorcyclists pass you by riding between you and the car next to car – that’s legal, even though you may be thinking the motorcyclist has a death wish. Some states are attempting to adopt this practice, but are coming across safety issues that might outweigh the benefits.

Nebraska allows bicycles to lane split, but not motorcycles. Bikers in other countries regularly use lane splitting to avoid traffic and get them to their destinations quicker. But it’s not exactly the safest practice, especially amidst miles of cars stopped in traffic. Most drivers aren’t quick to vote in favor of lane splitting. Traveling too close to other vehicles can lead to an increase in accidents. What if a driver with road rage were to open a car door while motorcyclists were driving by? That would cause serious injuries to a motorcyclist.

Plus, lane splitting requires immense skill on behalf of the motorcyclist. The motorcycle must be going at a very slow speed in order to successfully pull it off. Cars can change lanes at any time. Larger vehicles such as buses and semi trucks have larger blind spots and won’t be able to easily see motorcycles traveling alongside them. In addition, transportation engineers in the United States believe that the motorcycle population is still too small to accommodate lane splitting and are under the impression that the benefits will be negligible.

Those in favor of lane splitting, however, say that it increases comfort for motorcyclists, especially those who travel in extreme temperatures. Having to sit in traffic in extremely cold or hot weather is not any motorcyclist’s fantasy. Many believe that lane splitting is safer than idling behind cars and can actually relieve traffic congestion. This is because lane-splitting motorcycles are not in the “queue” and this in effect reduces traffic. This leads to a healthier environment by limiting traffic jams.

Lane splitting also prevents motorcyclists from being rear-ended – the most common type of crash. Motorcyclists are safer when riding between cars rather than behind possibly inattentive drivers. Lane splitting will continue to be an ongoing debate as the safety issues and benefits are carefully weighed. For the last 25 years, the lawyers of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP have represented injured motorcyclists and their families. All too often, we’ve seen motorcyclists struck by an inattentive driver, while lane-splitting. If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident, call to find out more about your rights.

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