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Sharing the Road with Motorcyclists in California

Another motorcycle tragedy occurred on Route 74 – the Ortega Highway – when a 24 year old Inland Empire resident was speeding around a curve and ended up in the wrong lane.

Although California’s traffic safety record is improving, motorcycle fatalities in 2011 increased 15 percent over the previous year. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports that motorcyclists experience a disproportionate rate of collisions compared to other traffic. Many motorists assume that the motorcyclists are at fault as they zip in and out of lanes, pulling in front of traffic at traffic lights and apparently causing near misses. But in California this behavior is legal.

Lane splitting is legal in California

Probably the most controversial motorcycle safety law in California is legalized lane splitting. Lane splitting refers to a motorcyclist driving between two lanes of stopped or slow moving traffic. California is the only state that specifically legalizes this practice.

For the first time, in January 2013, CHP published a guide in for safe lane splitting. They recommend that lane splitters:

  • Travel no more than 10mph faster than other traffic
  • Avoid lane splitting when traffic is moving at 30mph or faster
  • Stick to splitting between lanes #1 and #2
  • Use common sense about the feasibility of lane splitting and stay alert

In fact, most motorcycle collisions are caused by speeding, improper turning or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and do not involve lane splitting.

Other drivers are responsible for looking out for motorcyclists

Only 53 percent of non-motorcycle drivers in California are aware lane splitting is legal. This is itself hazardous as it increases driver anger and frustration with the motorcyclist’s perceived illegal activity. CHP suggest the following tips for drivers who share the rode with motorcyclists:

  • Pay special attention to checking for motorcycles in your mirror or blind spot when changing lanes
  • Do not forget to signal
  • Be aware that motorcyclists, like other motorists, sometimes forget to turn off their signals – and motorcycle signals do not automatically stop when turns are completed
  • Don’t tailgate motorcycles, which are able to make quicker stops than cars

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, your damages will depend on your contribution to the accident. Be aware that motorcycle lane splitters are behaving legally and take care not to try to stop them from lane splitting or attempt to block them. After an accident an attorney with experience handling motorcycle accidents should have the chance to examine witnesses and evidence as soon as possible before memories dim. The attorneys at Moga Law Firm can examine the circumstances and help you get the compensation you deserve.

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