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Lane splitting in California is legal but not always safe

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2023 | Motorcycle Accidents

Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic and is only permitted in some states. California formally recognized lane splitting as legal in 2016, making it the first state in the U.S. to do so.

Lane splitting must be done with caution and a clear understanding of the associated risks, such as dooring incidents. Knowing the laws and safety guidelines regarding lane splitting for motorcyclists in California is crucial, especially considering the potential risks of personal injury.

Dooring incidents while lane splitting

One of the risks related to lane splitting is dooring. Dooring happens when the door of a parked or stopped vehicle opens in the path of a motorcyclist, leading to a collision. This can cause significant injuries to motorcyclists, who may not have enough time to react and avoid the suddenly opened door.

Safety tips for motorcyclists

While no specific speed limits are set for lane splitting, the California Highway Patrol offers guidelines. These include:

  • Not lane splitting at speeds more than 10 mph faster than other traffic
  • Avoiding lane splitting if traffic is moving at 30 mph or faster
  • Only lane split if you’re sure you have enough space

Additionally, motorcyclists should be aware of the common areas where dooring incidents are more likely to occur, such as near parked cars or in urban areas with heavy traffic.

California law places the responsibility on vehicle drivers and passengers to check for oncoming traffic, including motorcyclists, before opening their doors. Motorcyclists injured in dooring accidents while lane splitting may have legal recourse, as opening a door into traffic can be considered negligent behavior. In such cases, the injured party can seek compensation for their injuries and damages.

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