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Is lane splitting on a motorcycle safe?

California is currently the only state in the U.S. that allows motorcycles to share lane space with cars. Called lane splitting, motorcyclists can weave around traffic by going around slow or stopped traffic.

When it works as intended, it is a safe way to allow for a better flow of traffic. However, the practice is controversial. This year, a number of states are considering allowing lane splitting. Attempts by lawmakers to allow lane splitting in the past have failed. It will be interesting to see whether the bills currently under consideration become law. 

Studies have shown lane splitting can work

Zooming by cars at high speeds is unsafe. But if motorcyclists stay within a reasonable speed of other traffic, lane splitting has not been shown to be dangerous. In fact, some advocates have said it helps bikers to be safer, since they can avoid cars when necessary and are more visible.

In 2015, researchers at the University of California-Berkley found that lane splitting did not increase the danger for motorcyclists, provided they were going less than 50 mph and no more than 15 mph greater than the flow of traffic. The study also noted motorcyclists who navigated between lanes were not as likely to suffer head injuries or die in a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said further study is needed before it makes a recommendation to states.

Some road safety organizations are unconvinced

Not everyone is ready to allow lane splitting. Last year in the state of Washington, for example, the state patrol and others successfully argued against the passage of a bill that would have allowed lane splitting. They argued it would increase the number of accidents and injuries.

It is an important topic, as motorcycle injuries are devastating. Anything that helps motorcyclists stay safe on the road should be explored. If lane splitting reduces traffic, that is an added bonus.

What do you think? Is lane splitting smart or dangerous?

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Is lane splitting on a motorcycle safe? | Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP