Motorcycles are often seen as a symbol of freedom, luxury and a carefree lifestyle. There are currently millions of motorcyclists in the United States, and the types of motorcycles driving laws depend greatly on the state. The maneuver known as lane-splitting, in which motorcyclists may pass other vehicles by weaving in between lanes, is legal in California; however, the dangers that can potentially come with such a maneuver have sparked controversy across the country.
Lane-splitting has only recently become a topic of debate in recent years. According to NBC Bay Area news, California is the only state where lane-splitting is legal, but officials in the past have not tracked lane-splitting related accidents. This lack of statistical data compromises research that attempts to determine whether such driving maneuvers are, in fact, dangerous. More recently, from 2012 to 2013, the state requested that law enforcement temporarily track information on lane-splitting accidents. Research showed that out of 5,969 motorcycle accidents that occurred in the state of California, 997 were due to lane-splitting.
While the safety research regarding lane-splitting shows that such a driving method can potentially be safe, officials advise that motorcyclists use precautions and drive at 50 miles per hour or less. The LA Times provides 2014 data that showed an increase in motorcycle sales for that year — but also an increase in motorcycle fatalities. Researchers retrieved sales data from 20 different motorcycle brands, and the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed the overwhelming number of fatal accidents in 2014. Some reports blame this high number of deaths on lax helmet laws, unlicensed riders, speeding and the use of drugs and alcohol, but under-reported accidents caused by lane-splitting could also be to blame.