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Why the new lane splitting laws in California make so much sense

A recent post on this blog covered the advent of a new law that legalizes the common motorcycle maneuver of lane splitting. In this post, we will explain why this was a good move and clarify how the new laws are currently being enforced.

Lane splitting is one of the most controversial and misunderstood maneuvers used by motorcyclists. As you riders likely know, lane splitting means riding between lanes when all other traffic is stop and go or at a standstill. The perception of many motorists is that lane splitting motorcyclists are taking unfair advantage of their size to bypass having to sit in traffic jams. But in truth, lane splitting is every bit as much a safety precaution as it is a time saver.

The fact is that motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable in slow moving or halted traffic. This is because while caught in traffic jams, motorcyclists are often stuck in the crumple zones of other vehicles. This increases the risk of rear-end collisions, so it only makes sense to steer clear of these areas. Moreover, a 2014 study revealed motorcyclists were safer while lane splitting at moderate speeds than while riding among other vehicles in slow moving traffic.

Until recently, lane splitting was in a kind of limbo where it was considered neither illegal or legal. However, the practice was accepted by the police and riders alike. But the significant problem was that insurance companies considered lane splitting illegal and would declare liability in accidents involving the maneuver as being no or dual-fault.

But thanks to the new law, lane splitting is now undeniably legal in California, and specific guidelines are under development. In regard to law enforcement, California Highway Patrol officers are presently being asked to use their judgment. In other words, CHP officers can issue citations to riders who they believe are lane splitting in a dangerous manner.

So now, you have a legal right to lane split, meaning that motorists must recognize your right of way. But this is a new law, so if you are injured while lane splitting, you may wish to have an experienced California personal injury attorney act as your representative when you file your claim. The attorney could help make sure that your newly established rights are honored so you can receive appropriate compensation.

Source: Moorpark Acorn, "Splitting lanes now legal in California," Andy Nguyen, Sept. 16, 2016

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