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Lane Splitting - New Guidelines Puts CHP as Authority

Just signed into law, California becomes the first state to legalize lane splitting. What does this mean for motorists? For the most part, the AB 51 takes all of the gray areas out of what is essentially a very complex legal issue. Let's explore what has changed.

In the Past - Lane Splitting

For most states lane splitting is illegal, but in California, it has been tolerated as an acceptable practice so long as it was done with safety in mind. That's all changed and for the better. The former standard allowed the California Highway Patrol and the legal system the "judging" authority. So many cases that involved accidents during lane splitting were decided by the CHP and a judge without the exactness of a law in place. What this means is that each case was more subjective. In theory, two accidents that occurred separately but were virtually identical could be decided in two different ways, because two sets of subjective standards were used. Now, the law helps to clarify what was a gray area.

The New Lane Splitting Law Now

Per AB 51: "This bill would authorize a motorcycle to be driven between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane if the speed of traffic is 35 miles per hour or less and the motorcycle is driven no more than 10 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic." [1]

First, this is the first time that the law makes it legal for motorcycles to be driven between rows of traffic. So for everyone involved there is clarity. It also gives lawyers room to argue by giving them physical evidence and not the subjective representation of facts.

Secondly, AB 51 sets in place guidelines that show both when lane splitting is legal and when it is not. This creates a legal situation that helps standardize the legal process when accidents occur during lane splitting situations. This opens up the door for an attorney to demonstrate that the law was either followed or not by a motorcyclist or the driver of a vehicle.

"if the speed of traffic is 35 miles per hour or less and the motorcycle is driven no more than 10 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic." [1]

In terms of personal injury and legal cases, it has always been that both parties have had to argue subjective details that either shows unsafe driving or lane changes on the part of the vehicle, or unsafe driving, lane changes, or negligence on the part of the motorcyclist. The key word here is "subjective," and much of the interpretation of that came down to the CHP.

Now, with physical speed limits built into the law, physical evidence can be used to reduce or eliminate the subjectiveness of the circumstance that surrounds personal injury as a result of lane splitting. That is a win for both California vehicle drivers and motorcyclists.

Changes to laws and the introduction of new laws can cause confusion. If you are in a situation where a lane splitting accident has occurred, then consider contacting a qualified lawyer or attorney to help you understand your rights.

Source: [1] AB 51 per Legal Info CA

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