Riding a motorcycle in California has a lot of advantages, like better gas mileage with high gas prices, beautiful ocean to cruise along, lots of canyons to ride through, and the only state that has unrestricted lane splitting.
(Author lane splitting between two semi trucks. I don’t suggest doing this due to the fact that it would only take one of the trucks to move toward us to cause a serious motorcycle accident)
One of the best ways to stay safer on the road when riding a motorcycle is to study what past riders have done that caused motorcycle traffic collisions and fatalities. Learning what other riders did in the past can help us understand ways not to make the same mistakes. UC Berkeley completed a study in 2015 about how lane splitting on freeways could be safer than sitting in traffic.
Between June 2012 and August 2013, UC Berkeley partnered with the California Highway Patrol and other local agencies to study the safety of lane splitting. The California Highway Patrol and the other local agencies were given a one-page supplemental report to fill out for every motorcycle traffic collision. The supplemental reports were filled out by law enforcement and given to UC Berkeley to analyze. I read through the 32-page research report and found it very interesting. This research is a great start, but it has some downfalls, and further research is needed.
Between June 2012 and August 2013, there were 5969 motorcycle traffic collisions in California. Of the 5969 motorcycle traffic collisions, 997 involved lane splitting. During the research, they discovered that most riders who split lanes were splitting lanes to commute to work, were wearing better helmets, and were traveling at lower speeds. Lane splitting riders were less likely to have been drinking and were usually not carrying a passenger. Riders who were lane-splitting were less likely to suffer injuries during a traffic collision. Where law enforcement saw significantly more injuries were riders going more than 15 MPH faster than traffic and traffic was traveling more than 50 MPH. Motorcycle riders could dramatically reduce their chances of injuries by slowing down and not going more than 15 MPH over the traffic speed and not splitting lanes when traffic is going more than 50 MPH.
Many different scenarios can change the risk while lane splitting, including road hazards, uneven pavement, painted lines, and grooves cut into the highway. When we are lane splitting, we are getting extremely close to other vehicles to pass them, which reduces our ability to identify and react to changes in traffic. By slowing down, we can reduce risks, but we will never be completely safe.
I think this research is excellent, and it is leading us in the right direction in having more freedom while lane splitting in California and other states. If you are interested in reading the research, you can go to https://www.ots.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/67/2019/06/Motorcycle-Lane-Splitting-and-Safety-2015.pdf and read the entire article for yourself. I tried to take the research highlights and give you the meat and potatoes.
There are no laws on how we lane split in California, but there are still some gray areas on who is at fault for a traffic collision in certain situations. If we as riders can slow down while lane splitting, we can significantly reduce our chances of crashing and getting seriously hurt.