Motorcycle Lane Splitting: it is time to legalize

Motorcycle Lane Splitting: it is time to legalize

There have been a few attempts to legalize lane splitting in Texas, none of which have been passed. Studies have shown the practice to be safer for the motorcycle rider, it reduces congestion and it will encourage more people to get on two wheels.

There are some who frown upon lane splitting but in my opinion these fears are based on misinformation more than a logical look at legal/safe lane splitting. We have all seen videos of motorcycles flying between traffic at insane speeds. That is not what we are talking about here. Those who fly through traffic are a danger to themselves and others on the road and deserve to be pulled over.

A new study on lane spitting continued to support the safety of lane splitting for motorcyclists, “Motorcycle Lane-splitting and Safety in California,” conducted by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley. According to the report, “Lane-splitting motorcyclists were… injured much less frequently during their collisions. Lane-splitting riders were less likely to suffer head injury (9% vs 17%), torso injury (19% vs 29%), extremity injury (60% vs 66%), and fatal injury (1.2% vs 3.0%). Lane-splitting motorcyclists were equally likely to suffer neck injury, compared with non-lane-splitting motorcyclists.” Here is an interesting side note found in the study, “Compared with other motorcyclists, lane-splitting motorcyclists were more often riding on weekdays and during commute hours, were using better helmets, and were traveling at lower speeds. Lane-splitting riders were also less likely to have been using alcohol and less likely to have been carrying a passenger.” So, while we have all seen the worst examples of lane splitting on YouTube, in practice that is not the norm.

Most proposals for the legalization of lane splitting in the US have had the same general guidelines.

  • Speed of traffic no more than about 35 mph.
  • Closing speed of the motorcycle no more than about 10 mph above traffic.

The speeds and details have varied from proposal to proposal but they all contain these same two general guidelines.

California has allowed lane splitting though it was never recognized as legal on the books. Since it is not specifically listed as illegal in California law, motorcyclists have been allowed to use lane splitting to stay safer and work through congested California highways.  California now has a specific law in legislature that would codify the practice of lane splitting. Having laws on the book would assist California law enforcement make sure that riders are practicing in a safe manner.

Other states are looking to California to see if they can make the practice legal. If they are able to pass laws in California many other States will have a precedent to begin legalization in their own territory. We are looking to you California…get this done!