California law is unique in allowing motorcyclists to engage in “lane splitting.” That’s defined as “driving a motorcycle…between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s always safe to do. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) cautions that only experienced motorcyclists should do it. The CHP also warns that the “risk of death or serious injury during a lane splitting collision increases as speed and speed differential increases.”
Lane splitting requires caution
The CHP provides additional safety guidelines and information regarding lane splitting, including the following:
- Consider the totality of road, weather and traffic conditions before you lane split.
- Lane splitting is safer in the far left lanes than in others.
- Riding on the shoulder of the road is not lane splitting (and is illegal).
- It’s not safe to lane split around large vehicles like trucks, buses and RVs.
Of course, all riders should wear helmets as required by law and make sure they have clothing and gear that increase their visibility to others on the road.
If you’re struck by a vehicle while lane splitting, you’re not automatically to blame since the practice isn’t illegal. However, other factors may be considered in determining whether you bear any responsibility for the collision, such as whether you were lane splitting recklessly or when conditions weren’t safe to do so.
Determining fault and compensation after a crash
California is what’s known as a “pure comparative fault” state. That means that a party involved in a crash can be eligible to receive some compensation for damages even if they are predominantly (even 99%) responsible for the crash. However, the amount they can seek is determined by their actual degree of fault.
Therefore, if a drunk, speeding driver hits you while you’re lane splitting during a rare California rainstorm, they may not be considered completely at fault. However, the compensation you’d be entitled to receive would likely be significantly greater.
The stereotype that motorcyclists are reckless still exists, and they can often find themselves blamed for crashes they didn’t cause. If you’ve been injured because of a driver’s actions or negligence, don’t settle for less than you deserve. Having legal guidance can help you protect your rights.