The California Highway Patrol (CHP) Motorcycle Safety Program (MSP) Unit is charged with co-leading and participating in a specific strategic highway safety plan. In conjunction with traffic safety stakeholders: the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the MSP Unit is crafting action items to keep motorcycles safe on California roadways.
Motorcycle Statistics in California
Data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System reveals that California motorcycle fatalities have increased annually. Despite substantial advances in motorcycle and vehicle safety, these deaths continue to rise. The death toll for motorcyclists is too high, considering all factors.
California Motorcycle Safety Info
One common safety concern that pertains specifically to motorcyclists is that of lane splitting. Lane splitting occurs when motorcyclists drive between lanes of traffic, usually when other vehicles have slowed.
Effective January 1, 2017, section 21658.1 was placed in the California Vehicle Code and describes the laws around lane splitting. Here is section 21658.1 in its entirety:
21658.1 (a) For the purposes of this section, “lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.
(b) The Department of the California Highway Patrol may develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.
(c) In developing guidelines pursuant to this section, the department shall consult with agencies and organizations with an interest in road safety and motorcyclist behavior, including, but not limited to, all of the following
- The Department of Motor Vehicles.
- The Department of Transportation.
- The Office of Traffic Safety.
- A motorcycle organization focused on motorcyclist safety.
Lane Splitting Safety Tips
Disclaimer: Lane splitting is potentially dangerous, and extreme caution should be used. Inexperienced motorcycle riders should not participate in lane splitting. To assist riders in lane splitting, these general safety tips should be adhered to. Keep in mind; they are not guaranteed to protect against death or serious injury. Each rider is ultimately liable for their own decisions and actions.
- Contemplate the entire environment when you are lane splitting (such as the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, in addition to the current road, weather, and lighting conditions).
- The risk of injury or death increases at higher speed differentials.
- The risk of injury or death increases as overall speed increases.
- Generally, it is safer to split between the far left lanes than between any of the other lanes of traffic.
- Lane splitting should be avoided when next to large vehicles such as big rigs, buses, motorhomes, construction equipment, etc.
- Riding on the shoulder is not considered lane splitting, and it is illegal
- Stay out of the blind spots of other vehicles and avoid lingering in between vehicles.
- You can help other motorists see you by wearing brightly colored/reflective protective gear and using high beams even during daylight hours.
As per California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1, lane splitting is defined as driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.
What Other Motorists Need to Know About Lane Splitting
- The practice of lane splitting by motorcyclists is legal in California.
- It is illegal to intentionally block or impede a motorcyclist in a manner that could cause harm to the rider
- It is also illegal to open a vehicle door to impede a motorcyclist.
- Motorists in the far-left lane should move to the left of their lane to give motorcyclists plenty of room to pass.
Read more in our Motorcyclist’s Guide to Safe Lane-Splitting
Safety Tips All Motorists Should Practice
Safety should be the number one priority for motorcyclists and all motorists on California roads. Help ensure the safety of everyone on the road by:
- Checking mirrors and blind spots, most importantly, before changing lanes or turning.
- Using your blinker to signal your planned maneuvers before changing lanes or merging with other lanes of traffic.
- Staying vigilant and anticipating potential actions by other drivers on the road.
- Never getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or even fatigue.
- Sharing the road and extending courtesy to other motorists whenever possible.
A Word About Helmets
Despite multiple attempts to repeal California’s motorcycle helmet law and replace it with a law that requires only those under the age of 18 to wear a United States Department of Transportation compliant helmet, helmets are still legally mandated for all motorcyclists. Since January 1, 1992, motorcyclists have had to obey this law or face the consequences. Proponents of an appeal say helmet use is a matter of personal choice, but opponents point out that it ignores the statistics that support helmet use by riders of every age. For example, in 1987, 77 percent of all motorcycle accident deaths involved victims who were over the age of 21, and 69 percent of those that were injured were over the age of 21.
Remember These Safety Points
All drivers on California roads have an obligation to drive responsibly and safely. You should always use common courtesy and stay alert. Additionally, motorcyclists should minimize their risk of injury and death by always wearing a helmet and other safety gear, as well as never getting on their bikes while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The DMV offers many safety tips for motorcycle riders. In addition, remember:
- Watch your speed – a motorcycle collision is more likely to cause injury or death than a collision involving other types of vehicles
- Assume people in cars do not see you
- Avoid blind spots in other vehicles, especially the blind spots of large trucks
- Also, watch Thrill or Buzz Kill?, a motorcycle safety video produced by the CHP.
For more information on how to sign up for motorcycle training: Visit the California Motorcyclist Safety Program or Call 1-877-RIDE-411
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? Call an Experienced California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
If other vehicles were ignoring the rules of the road, driving too fast for conditions, or preventing you from lane splitting and caused your accident, you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries. Contact Arash Law today by phone (888) 488-1391 or online to receive your free case consultation with an experienced California motorcycle accident lawyer from our firm.
Our dedicated lawyers have recovered over 200 million dollars for clients just like you. We have decades of experience serving motorcycle accident victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California.