State Assembly Bill (AB-51), which officially legalized lane-splitting, was signed into law by governor Jerry Brown this August. It will go into effect on January 1, 2017. California is the first state to legalize lane-splitting.
Prior to AB-51, lane-splitting existed in a murky grey area. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) published a guideline to outline permissible examples of lane-splitting. However, without formal sanction of law, the grey area caused confusion and occasionally animosity between motorcyclists and card rivers. Furthermore, the lack of clarification made “enforcing” lane-splitting rules a challenge.
Of course, motorcyclists won’t have free reign to lane-split; regulations will be put in place. With the new law in effect, the CHP will have the power to publish lane-splitting guidelines restored. The new guidelines have not been distributed yet, but will likely include provisions limiting the speed at which riders can lane-split (probably no more than 15 mph above speed limit).
The bill comes after a 2015 study published by UC Berkeley revealed interesting data about lane-splitting and road safety. Data in the study suggested that habitual lane-splitters tended to be responsible riders. Of the 5,969 motorcycle collisions in California that the study looked at, 997 of them involved lane-splitting at the time of the accident, amounting to 17%. Lane-splitters are more likely to wear helmets and less likely to drive under the influence, both of which are prominent factors in accidents.
Lane-splitting can also protect motorcyclists from being rear-ended by cars on the road. As Wayne Allard, vice president of the American Motorcyclist association noted, “reducing a motorcyclist’s exposure to vehicles that are… accelerating or decelerating on congested roadways can reduce rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic.
Stay tuned for the forthcoming CHP guidelines.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys at Nagelberg Bernard Law Group have over 30 years of experience assisting victims of motorcycle accidents. Learn more here.