Those of you who closely follow my daily motorcycle-related rants already know my opinion on lane splitting. Well, I’ve been force-fed some new fodder on the subject. Yesterday, the OC Register, Orange County’s leading newspaper (other than the LA Times, haha) ran a story entitled “Splitting Lanes: Dangerous but Legal.”
The name of the article bothered me so much that I could barely continue reading. The article may as well have been called, “Riding a Motorcycle: Dangerous but Still Legal,” or perhaps “Being an Inattentive Driver: Dangerous to Motorcyclists, But Who Gives a S***?”
The writer, Alejandra Molina, gives anecdotal evidence of the danger of lane splitting. “Earlier this month,” she writes, “a motorcyclist was injured after splitting the carpool and fast lanes and crashing with two vehicles on the southbound 55 at the 22, according to the initial California Highway Patrol investigation.”
No doubt, that information is accurate. But where is the part in the story about the other accidents that occurred in OC this month as a result of inattentive automobile drivers turning left in front of bikers? In my years of practicing law as a motorcycle accident attorney, I’ve seen surprisingly few accidents that involved lane-splitting motorcycles. Invariably, these accidents are the result not of the lane-splitting itself, but either (1) recklessly excessive speed on the part of the biker, driver, or both; (2) an illegal lane change by the car driver; or (3) the occasional driver opening his door intentionally.
Public perception that lane splitting is dangerous is unsupported by the facts. Auto drivers are at fault in about 80% of car vs. motorcycle accidents. And the vast majority of these accidents are caused by a the driver turning left in front of a motorcycle. The excuse is invariably the same. “I didn’t see him.” Indeed. Not looking, not paying attention, speeding, or talking or texting on your cell while driving will have that affect.
Admittedly, there are motorcyclists out there who contribute to the problem. Those bikers who are out there driving like maniacs, doing wheelies on the freeway, or lane splitting at ninety mph, give the rest of us a bad name. But does that justify judging an entire group based on the behavior of a small minority? Hmmmm, sounds a little like prejudice to me.
The author, Ms. Molina, goes on to write a reasonably well-balanced article. What the article is missing, however, are facts to support the contention raised in its title. She should have talked to someone who deals with motorcycle accidents every day. Like, I don’t know, a motorcycle accident lawyer! Hey Alejandra, call me next time. I love giving an interview. Just ask the folks at the Times.