2024 Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

Most motorcyclists understand lane splitting as a means of potentially avoiding accidents and streamlining movement through traffic. While many believe the practice to be dangerous, and it does objectively involve a degree of risk, lane splitting has been legalized for motorcyclists. This means that as long as it is done safely, it is perfectly legal for a motorcyclist to split a lane on state roads. However, if a motorcyclist negligently or recklessly splits a lane or speeds when doing so, they may not only cause an accident but also face liability for the resulting damages.

Defining Lane Splitting

It’s common for drivers to conflate lane splitting with lane filtering and lane sharing, but these terms each mean different things:

  • Lane splitting refers to passing between lanes of traffic. Also called white lining because a motorcyclist will often ride the white line between lanes of traffic to pass the slower-moving vehicles occupying those lanes. This practice can allow a motorcyclist to escape a dangerous situation, such as an imminent rear-end collision.
  • Lane filtering applies when traffic has stopped and a motorcyclist moves between the lanes of stopped traffic along a white line, moving to the head of the group stopped at an intersection. This allows the motorcyclist to go first once the light changes and can make motorcyclists more visible to other motorists around them.
  • Lane sharing refers to two vehicles occupying space in the same lane side by side, effectively sharing the same lane. It is illegal for drivers of larger vehicles to do this, but since motorcycles are much smaller than other cars, this practice is legal in the state. In addition, lane sharing can make motorcyclists safer at night as their side-by-side vehicle lights will appear like a larger vehicle to other motorists, making them more noticeable.

Motorcyclists should only lane split when it is safe, and they may not excessively speed to complete a lane split. The California Highway Patrol advises that lane splitting should only be done when traffic is moving no faster than 30 mph, and the motorcyclist should not go more than 10 mph over the speed limit to complete a lane split. It is also advised that motorcyclists split the leftmost lanes whenever possible since drivers are accustomed to being passed on their left, and drivers should refrain from lane splitting during inclement weather and on unfamiliar roads.

What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident

Unfortunately, even the most experienced and cautious riders may experience accidents while riding their motorcycles. If you or a family member is hurt in a motorcycle accident, it is crucial to know your rights in terms of how you can recover your losses. For example, if your accident occurred when you were splitting a lane, it is likely that the other driver will assert comparative fault, claiming your actions caused the accident.

Before you can claim any kind of compensation for damages from a motorcycle accident, you must prove the exact cause of the accident. A seasoned attorney is an ideal asset in this situation as they can help gather any evidence you may need to prove exactly how your accident happened and identify the driver or drivers responsible for the damages.

Recovery from a motorcycle or any other vehicle accident begins with a claim against the driver at fault’s auto insurance policy. Once you have exhausted their insurance, or if they do not have insurance, you can proceed with filing a personal injury claim to recover outstanding damages. The team at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen has successfully represented many past clients in a variety of personal injury cases, including those arising from motorcycle accidents. Whatever your case requires, you can rest assured our team has the skills and resources necessary to guide you to a favorable conclusion.

FAQs About California Lane Spliting Law

Why Does California Allow Motorcycles to Split Lanes?

The state does not have a law strictly banning lane splitting, but it is not an encouraged practice, either. The justification for allowing lane splitting for motorcyclists is the rationale that it enables motorcyclists to potentially escape dangerous situations. For example, if a motorcyclist is about to be hit from behind and they notice in time, they could split the lane ahead to escape a collision. Lane splitting is also claimed to enable a smoother flow of traffic.

When Did the State Legalize Lane Splitting?

The state did not have a law that formally allowed lane splitting until 2016. The law was passed to legally define lane splitting so California Highway Patrol officers could more easily discern between legal and illegal lane splitting. The law also allows motorcyclists to engage in lane filtering, which means passing between lanes of slower-moving traffic. For example, this can allow a motorcyclist to move to the front of a pack of stopped larger vehicles so they can move first once the light changes to green.

Is California the Only State Where Lane Splitting Is Legal?

Currently, it is the only state in the country with a law allowing certain forms of lane splitting. The practice is explicitly banned in every other state, although some states allow motorcyclists to ride in pairs in the same lane. The logic for this is that it makes them more noticeable to nearby motorists, especially when riding at night.

Who Is at Fault for a Lane Splitting Accident?

If a motor vehicle accident occurs because of lane splitting, the fault for the collisions rests with the negligent party who caused the accident. Motorcyclists may only split lanes in specific situations, and if they split a lane illegally and cause an accident, they face liability for the resulting damages. If you are unsure how to prove fault for a recent accident, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney as quickly as possible.

The attorneys at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen have years of experience helping clients recover from all types of vehicle accidents. If you or a loved one was recently injured in a motorcycle accident, we could help recover your losses. Contact us today and schedule a consultation with our team to learn more about the legal services we offer.