“Lane splitting,” also known as “white lining,” is the practice of riding a motorcycle between rows of traffic. Yesterday, I discussed the legality of the issue in the blog post Is Lane Splitting on a Motorcycle Legal in California? Today, I will continue the discussion on lane splitting with another important question:
Is Riding Between Lanes on a Motorcycle Safe?
Most car drivers (and many motorcyclists) consider lane-splitting unsafe. But is it? Studies show that it may not be as dangerous as most people think. As discussed in my blog back in December, a USC study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that lane splitting is actually safer than sitting in stop-and-go traffic, where bikers are far more likely to be “sandwiched” between two cars. “For a motorcyclist, that’s the safest place to be,” Professor Harry Hurt said shortly after releasing his study. “A lot of people think it’s a hazard, but the cold, hard facts are that it’s not.”
Of course, riding a motorcycle always comes with a degree of danger. You can’t control what other drivers will do — and you can’t always predict the stupidity or negligence of others. But from personal experience, both as a life-long biker, and as a motorcycle accident attorney, I believe that lane splitting is safe, if it’s done safely — that is, at reasonable speeds for the given situation, and only by an experienced rider.
The simple fact is, many bikers zip through traffic as though the notion of getting cut-off by an inattentive driver is ridiculous. This is a recipe for disaster. I’ve handled far too many motorcycle accident lawsuits that result from drivers jumping across a double-yellow and cutting off a lane-splitting biker. In most (but not all) of these cases, the motorcyclist was riding way too fast — either too fast for the situation, or sometimes even far in excess of the posted speed limit. And often, these bikers have been inexperienced riders, having ridden a motorcycle for less than a year or two.
If you chose to split lanes, please do so safely. Traffic in California can be treacherous. Just take a ride around the mean streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco (where I was hit by an uninsured driver ten years ago), and look into cars at the drivers. It seems like half of them are texting or talking on their phone without a headset. And who knows how many have been drinking?
The fact that “it was the other guy’s fault” won’t put you back together if you’re badly injured in an accident. We’re expert motorcycle accident lawyers, and we’re happy to help you if you are in an accident. But we were motorcyclists long before we were attorneys, and we mean it when we say, we would rather you never need us. Ride safe.