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Splitting Lanes Doesn’t Have to Be Dangerous


According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, from January through June 2010, 166 motorcycle riders died in accidents. Many of these crashes were caused by unsafe behavior on the road, including splitting lanes. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports on motorcycle collisions and indicated that there were 389 fatal motorcycle accidents in the state of California in 2009, 270 of which were caused by the driver of the motorcycle. Of these 270 crashes, 262 were attributed to motorcycle riders driving at unsafe speeds, making improper turns, or driving while drunk or intoxicated. There were 10,101 crashes that resulted in injury.

“Given that motorcyclists have little protecting them from other drivers on the road, engaging in such behaviors significantly increases their risk of suffering serious or fatal trauma should a crash occur,” explained California personal injury attorney James Ballidis.

One particular behavior on the road that may be linked to accidents is lane splitting. Lane splitting refers to motorcyclists riding between other vehicles. For instance, when traffic is stopped or slowed, a motorcycle may be able to move between two lanes of vehicles to escape the traffic. According to the California Highway Patrol, this behavior is permitted as long as it is done in a safe and careful manner.

When motorcyclists speed or engage in other risky behaviors while riding in between lanes, however, they increase their risk of a collision. Several articles in the Orange County Register highlight the potential dangers of lane splitting, which can contribute to accidents due to the close proximity of motorcycles and cars and due to the fact that cars may not expect motorcycles to be traveling between the lanes.

One of the articles in the newspaper described a motorcycle crash that occurred in April 2012. The crash occurred early in the morning, and the motorcycle rider was splitting traffic between the carpool and fast lane while traveling at a speed of approximately 100 miles per hour. The bike crashed into a Hyundai sedan that was in the fast lane, traveling only 30 miles per hour, causing moderate injuries to the rider.

If a motorcycle rider was speeding or behaving in a manner that no hypothetical reasonable driver would have when splitting lanes, then the motorcycle rider can be considered legally culpable even if riding between lanes is legal in the state. If, on the other hand, a distracted driver failed to see a motorcycle rider carefully navigating between the lanes, then the driver would be the one at fault. In some instances, both parties might share fault and both may have been negligent in causing the accident. When this occurs, comparative fault rules allow an injured victim to recover partial compensation equal to the percentage of fault attributed to the other party.

For additional information on splitting lanes and state traffic safety laws, or to discuss a particular accident with a California personal injury attorney, feel free to call 866-981-5596.

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