California Motorcyclist’s Guide to Safe Lane-Splitting

New Guidelines for Motorcyclists and Lane Splitting

When motorcyclists pass a vehicle, or vehicles, while riding between these vehicles along the lane line, this is known as lane splitting. Filtering or filtering forward describes moving through traffic that is stopped completely. While it is not necessarily illegal to lane split, it is not legal to do so either. Lane splitting does, however, create a severe hazard to the safety of riders and the other motorists on the road.

There is a big misconception that motorcyclists who are lane splitting are doing something illegal. These motorcyclists are not breaking any law. According to the Sargeant that runs the California Motorcyclist Safety Program by the California Highway Patrol, Larry Starkey, lane splitting or lane sharing is a practice that has not ever been prohibited by the law in California.

Lane Splitting Has Always Been An Acceptable Practice

The lack of data available on lane splitting is one of the biggest problems with this practice. A study was done in 2015 by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research & Education Center discovered that seventeen percent of around six thousand motorcyclists that crashed in between June 2012 and August 2013, were all lane splitting when they collided with another vehicle.

The study concluded that lane splitting seems to be a relatively safe strategy for motorcycle riding if it is done in traffic that is moving less than 50 mph or at precisely this speed and if the motorcyclists do not go above the speed of the other vehicles by any more than 15 mph.

There Is Very Little Data To Show The Safety Of This Practice

A study was done in 2014 provided data that only 60.7 percent of drivers in California knew that it was legal for motorcyclists to lane split. The motorcyclists that are lane splitting are still required to follow and obey the speed limit in the area and to obey any other rules of the road.

If they do not responsibly split lanes, they can be ticketed.

There is a proposed law of the Vehicle Code Act, Section 21658.1, that would have California be the first state within the nation to formalize the action of lane splitting. This law would add several guidelines for safety for both motorists and riders.

The Department of the California Highway Patrol would be authorized by this bill to help to create guidelines that relate to lane splitting in a way that would ensure the safety of the passengers, drivers, and the motorcyclist as it is specified. The bill also will require that the department, to talk with specific organizations and agencies that have an interest in motorcyclist behavior and road safety when developing these guidelines.

There were 519 motorcycle fatalities in 2014, an increase of 12.1% from 2013 which saw 463 deaths from motorcycles. Due to the popularity increase of motorcycles, it is not that surprising how the number of injuries and accidents have also increased.

California’s DMV General Guidelines For Lane splitting

Other objections from one petitioner that no formal process for rulemaking was used for the guidelines, according to the Office of Administrative Law. There was a discussion of the issue by the CHP along with the Office of Administrative Law, and they decided not to use, enforce, or issue guidelines and then removed them from their website.

The main goal of the guidelines was to offer information for traffic safety that is common sense. No California law allows or prohibits a motorcyclist from passing another vehicle that is going in the same direction in the same lane by using the practice known as lane splitting, lane sharing, or filtering.

It is also encouraged strongly by the California Highway Patrol that all motorcyclists sign up for the program which is administered by the CHP as the official motorcycle training and safety program for California, the California Motorcyclist Safety Program.

California Motorcycle-Involved Statistics

In early 2013, new lane splitting guidelines were announced by the CHP, the California Highway Patrol, on their website. The list of available safety tips on this site is more specific than they are general and it gives the technical definition of what lane splitting is before going into the best practices for lane splitting.

The MSP or Motorcycle Safety Program Unit by the California Highway Patrol has been made responsible for participating and co-leading in a challenging area that is dedicated. This MSP Unit is currently is collaborating with its partners which includes the stakeholders of traffic safety, the California Department of Transportation, OTS or the Office of Traffic Safety, and the Department of Motor Vehicles to develop action items.

The data from Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System have indicated that the fatalities for motorcyclists in the state of California have been increasing each year. These increases for deaths related to motorcycle accidents have occurred during a time where other areas of traffic safety have experienced significant gains. The overall number of traffic-related deaths in California have seen motorcyclists over-represented.

Tips For Motorcycle ‘Lane-Splitting’ The Safe Way

Lane Splitting can be potentially dangerous, and you should exercise extreme caution when participating in this activity. This is not a task that should be performed by a rider who is not experienced. The risk of a severe injury or death in a lane-splitting collision rises when speed and speed differential is increased. To assist you in the practice of lane splitting these general safety tips below are available to guide you, but they cannot guarantee your safety. Each rider is ultimately responsible for their safety and decision-making.



The following are tips to assist riders when lane splitting:
  • The danger is increased with overall speed increases.
  • Avoid lane splitting when next to larger vehicles, such as big rigs, motorhomes, buses, etc.
  • The danger is increased with higher speed differentials.
  • You should consider the complete environment when lane splitting, this includes the lane’s width, the size of the vehicles surrounding you, the current roadway, lighting conditions, and the weather.
  • It is not considered lane splitting if you are riding on the shoulder and doing so is illegal.
  • Be sure to stay visible. Stay out of blind spots of other drivers and avoid lingering between vehicles.
  • Wearing bright colored or reflective clothing and using high beams can help drivers spot you.

Lane splitting as defined by the California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1 as driving a motorcycle, that has two wheels which are in contact with the ground, in between rows of moving or stopped vehicles in the same lane, including on undivided and divided highways, roads, or streets.

Lane splitting is legal for motorcyclists in California, and it is illegal for another driver to impede or intentionally block a motorcyclist in a way that could create harm for the rider. It is also illegal for a driver to open the door of a vehicle to impede a motorcyclist. A driver that is in the far left lane should move to the left of their lane to give a motorcyclist ample room to pass them.

Helmet Laws for Motorcyclists in California

There have been repeated attempts at repealing the motorcycle helmet law in California to substitute it for a lesser version. This lesser version would require those that are under the age of 18 to wear a helmet that is compliant with the United States Department of Transportation, however, these repeals have failed so far in the state legislature.

The adult riders have been advocating for a repeal of this helmet law despite the statistical information that supports this law. This law was made into effect on the first of January, in 1992. The advocates of repeal have contended that this should be a matter of choice for the individual on choosing to wear a helmet or not, and it should be a personal right to determine whether or not they should take that risk. This idea that the motorcyclists who are over the age of 21 should not be affected by the helmet law’s requirements ignores the other facts that brought about the helmet law in the first place. 77% of the fatalities for motorcyclists, in 1987, before the law had been passed involved victims that were over the age of 21, and 69 percent of those that were injured were over the age of 21. ​

Safety Tips for All Motorists

You can keep both yourself and other users of the road, safe through your actions.  Some ways you can do so are:

  • Sharing the road and being courteous.
  • Anticipating other motorist’s possible movements and staying alert while driving.
  • You are never driving while impaired by fatigue, alcohol, or drugs.
  • You are checking your blind spots and mirrors, even more so if you are about to switch lanes or turn.
  • You are making sure to signal what you intend to do before you switch lanes or merge with the traffic.

It is a shared responsibility for all motorcyclists and drivers alike to create a safe highway environment. This safe environment can be obtained through both using courtesy and common sense while driving on the road and by staying alert when at the wheel. Motorcyclists also have an essential task of minimizing the risks they take by always wearing their protective gear, such as a helmet, not riding under any influence of any intoxicant, such as alcohol, and still being responsible when riding.

 Four important reminders To Help Keep Motorcyclists Safe While Riding:
  1. Always assume people in cars do not see you.
  2. It is highly likely that a collision of a motorcycle will cause death or injury.
  3. Stay out of blind spots of vehicles, particularly the larger trucks.
  4. Pay attention to your speed.
California’s Best Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Here at Arash Law, we have both the knowledge and the resources needed to handle any motorcycle accident case with ease. Our motorcycle accident attorneys can handle even the most complicated cases successfully. If you want to schedule a confidential, no-cost, no-obligation consultation, use our contact form or call us now at (888) 488-1391.

Our team of experienced injury lawyers can help with our offices in Sherman Oaks, Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any hospital or place of recovery in California. Regardless of where you are – We’ll happily come to you for your case!


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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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