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Guidelines on lane splitting spark controversy

California has more motorcycles on the road than any other state. Part of the reason for this could be that state highways are prone to traffic jams, which can be easier to handle on a motorcycle.

Lane splitting is something that has been done by motorcyclists in California for many years. Essentially, lane splitting is a time-saving maneuver during which motorcyclists ride between two lanes of traffic, most often when traffic is backed up or stopped.

The maneuver is legal under state law, but it is dangerous, especially when cars attempt to block motorcyclists from lane splitting

In order to help promote safe lane splitting, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) released a set of safety guidelines on its website in early 2013. The guidelines said that only “competent enough” motorcyclists should engage in lane splitting and offered various other reminders on lane splitting and general safe-riding tips.

The guidelines also warned drivers against purposefully blocking motorcyclists from lane splitting, saying that it is not only dangerous but also against the law.

However, the guidelines have been a source of controversy and were eventually taken down last month following complaints by at least one motorist to another state agency that is in charge of making sure that state agencies such as the CHP don’t release “underground regulations.”

Ultimately, the state agency watchdog concluded that the CHP’s guidelines may have been promoting a maneuver that is dangerous.

In response, proponents of the guidelines are saying that they are needed to keep motorcyclists safe on the road by educating motorcyclists and drivers alike. The American Motorcyclist Association has already started a petition to get the guidelines back on the website.

When motorists attempt to block motorcycles from lane splitting and an accident results, the motorist could potentially face liability in a personal injury lawsuit as well as criminal charges. Talk to a personal injury lawyer in your area for more information.

Source: Businessweek, “California Drivers, Motorcyclists Fight Over Traffic Jam Etiquette,” Karen Aho, Aug. 4, 2014

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