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Motorcycle lane splitting isn't already legal in California?

At the beginning of the month, we wrote that May is Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month across California. With all the traffic congestion and year-round warm weather we experience here in the Golden State, motorcycle safety needs to be an even higher priority here than in other parts of the country.

California also takes a unique approach to motorcycling. No other state in America allows motorcyclists to engage in "lane splitting," which is when motorcycles drive between lanes of traffic in times of congestion. This practice has been going on for decades, which is why you may be surprised to learn that it isn't technically legal. There is not yet a statute that specifically permits lane splitting, but that could soon be changing.

The California Assembly recently passed a lane-splitting bill with strong support. While it would codify a practice that is already permitted most of the time, it would also allow lawmakers to place some safety restrictions on it (rather than just recommended safety practices).

If passed, the bill will limit motorcyclists' speed during times of traffic congestion. They will be able to travel up to 15 mph faster than the traffic around them.

The CHP recommends that lane splitting be limited to the two innermost lanes on the highway. The agency also urges riders to wear highly visible safety gear and to avoid lane splitting after dark or in low-visibility conditions. It is unclear if these two recommendations will be written into the law in some form.

To most drivers who have been startled by a motorcycle whizzing by in rush-hour traffic, lane splitting seems dangerous. But a UC Berkeley study found that it actually reduces the risk of motorcycle accidents caused by drivers of cars, particularly rear-end crashes. Hopefully, that argument alone will be strong enough to pass the bill and get in signed into law.

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