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Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: August 12, 2022

Aerial view of a freeway

Lane splitting is a controversial topic among motorists. While many consider the practice to be safe and helpful in reducing congestion, others believe the practice only increases the likelihood of collisions. These fears have led the vast majority of states to ban lane splitting.

However, in California, lane splitting is legal. While it is the first state to adopt legislation allowing this practice, there are times when carelessness can still result in a collision. If you have been hurt in a lane splitting accident, you could be entitled to compensation.

What Is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is the act of operating a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic. This is typically done in heavy traffic congestion, allowing motorcyclists to continue on their way even when the cars around them are at a stand-still.

Lane splitting — also commonly referred to as stripe-riding or whitening — obligates motorists to comply with other regulations like traffic control devices and speed limits, but it does permit motorcyclists to drive at safe speeds between lanes when traffic is heavy.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

California lane splitting laws are clear: it is allowed. This is a departure from many other states, and this method of operating a motorcycle has only been recently legal in California. However, lane splitting is a common practice in many other countries and has been for years.

To date, California is the only state that has legalized lane splitting. Some other states like Hawaii and Utah have laws that allow it in limited circumstances, but no other jurisdiction has embraced the practice the way California has.

In addition to legalizing lane splitting, the state has also adopted safety tips. According to the California Highway Patrol, it is important to consider the whole picture before lane splitting. What is the weather like? How is visibility? By keeping speed low and remaining aware of other threats, lane splitting can be safe.

Why Is Lane Splitting Legal?

The primary benefit of lane splitting is that it can ease congestion on California roadways. Lane splitting keeps motorcycle traffic moving even during heavy congestion, which can also reduce delays for other motorists.

Lane splitting is beneficial in other ways outside of easing congestion. In some situations, it is one of the ways to make motorcycling safer. By lane splitting, a motorcyclist can easily stay out of the blind spot of nearby motorists, which reduces one of the major risks of injury facing riders. This also allows motorcyclists to avoid the risk of rear-end collisions from drivers who fail to notice them until it is too late.

What Is the Speed Limit for Lane Splitting in California?

There is no special speed limit that applies to lane splitting in California. If the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour, that is the maximum amount a motorcyclist can legally travel, whether they are lane splitting or not.

While these might be the limits set by law, high speed could still lead to a lane splitting accident. Riders are more likely to avoid a collision by primarily lane splitting at lower speeds.

Who Is at Fault in a Lane Splitting Accident?

When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident while lane splitting, they are not automatically at fault. Remember, a party is only liable for an accident if their negligence played a part in causing the crash. When a motorcyclist fails to take reasonable steps to avoid a collision, they may still be liable in a lane splitting crash.

Of course, other vehicles could be responsible for these accidents as well. If a car changes lanes in the path of a lane-splitting motorcycle without signaling, that driver could be at fault for the crash.

Questions of legal liability are complex and best left to the professionals. If you have questions about who is at fault for your motorcycle accident, a California personal injury lawyer can help.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Lane Splitting Accident

Lane splitting might be legal in California, but riders could still be at fault for an accident if they were negligent while lane splitting. If you were injured by a motorcyclist that was lane splitting, it is important that you consider your legal options right away.

You have the right to hire legal counsel to aggressively pursue compensation following your accident. Let a San Diego motorcycle accident lawyer evaluate your case and advise you on your options moving forward. Contact The Gomez Firm right away for your free consultation.

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