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How safe is lane-splitting?

This blog has reported on motorcycle collisions involving lane-splitting and on legislative efforts in California to clarify the legality of this practice. We have not directly attempted to answer the question that often occurs to non-motorcyclists, "Are lane-splitters courting disaster?" A recent study at the University of California - Berkeley has provided some interesting and occasionally surprising answers. The study was conducted by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center ("SafeTREC"). The study examined 5,969 motorcycle accidents that occurred between June 2012 and August 2013 using data derived from the California Enhanced Motorcycle Data Project in collaboration with the California Highway Patrol.

The study examined the number of accidents involving at least one lane-splitter and factors such as speed, time and day of the week, helmet use, and types of injuries. Seventeen percent of the mishaps (997 riders) involved lane-splitting. However, the riding behavior of the lane-splitters difference in several ways from non-lane-splitters. When compared to accidents that did not involve lane-splitting, the study found that most of the lane-splitting cyclists were traveling during commuting hours on week days, were using better quality helmets, and were traveling at lower speeds. The study concluded that lane-splitting "is a reasonably safe tactic for traveling in congested traffic."

Another provocative conclusion was the finding that a speed differential of more than 15 mph between the lane splitter and adjacent traffic. If the lane-splitting cyclist was traveling more than 15 mph faster than adjacent traffic, the likelihood of an accident and of serious injuries to the head, torso and arms and legs was significantly increased.

Anyone who has suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident that involved lane-splitting may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in such cases for an evaluation of the facts and analysis of the likelihood of recovering damages.

Source: Property Casualty 360, "Hey, drivers! Beware of lane-splitting motorcyclists," Rory Murphy, June 30, 2015

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