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Does lane-splitting lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents?

Past postings in this blog have discussed the potential for fatal and catastrophic injuries when a motorcycle and another type of vehicle collide. The occurrence of fatal motorcycle accidents in California has led to discussions about how to proactively prevent these types of accidents from continuing to occur. One specific suggestion has led to some controversy and heated debate throughout the state.

The debates currently going on involve the controversial practice of lane-splitting. Lane-splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between cars on the freeway. This act of lane-splitting on behalf of motorcyclists is currently legal in the state of California.

In the past some have questioned whether lane-splitting should be made illegal. These questions and discussions regarding the legality of lane-splitting arose once again after a 40-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a fatal motorcycle crash when his motorcycle struck a passenger vehicle while he was lane-splitting. The motorcycle accident victim was first thrown from his motorcycle and then run over by a semi-truck.

According to California law, this is a legal and generally accepted practice in the state. However, the state has outlined specific guidelines for the safest way to lane-split. According to a study executed in 2012 by UC Berkeley and the state of California, about 75 percent of motorcyclists lane-split but only 15 percent reported involvement in a collision.

It may be surprising for some readers to hear that, although motorcyclists are the ones usually most severely injured by these crashes, they are not necessarily against lane-splitting. Some motorcyclists just believe that drivers of cars should be better at yielding and following laws. On the other hand, some drivers believe that motorcyclists do not understand the danger involved and do not exercise a reasonable amount of care when lane-splitting.

The debate on this topic is still open but it may be an issue that motorcyclists and drivers alike may want to keep an eye on in case developments result in a change of legislation in the state of California. This could impact personal injury claims revolving around negligence and liability in fatal motorcycle crashes.

Source: CBS Los Angeles, "Recent Deadly Motorcycle Crashes Reignite Controversial Lane-Splitting Debate," May 24, 2013

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