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Motorcycle Accident Injuries

By Aghabegian & Associates on November 17, 2021

Lane splitting, also known as lane sharing or filtering, is the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic in the same direction as that traffic. Many drivers are under the misconception that lane splitting is illegal, when in fact, it’s legal in the state of California.

While the practice of lane splitting was never prohibited by California law, it officially became legal on August 19, 2016, when a bill was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown making it so. The bill in question, Assembly Bill No. 51 (AB51), recognized lane splitting as a legal act and gave the California Highway Patrol the power to develop lane splitting guidelines and safety tips for motorcyclists, which they subsequently did. AB51 came into effect on January 1, 2017, so ever since then, lane splitting has officially been legal in California.

California Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws – What You Need To Know

First and foremost, it’s important to understand how the state of California defines lane splitting. According to section 21658.1 of the California Vehicle Code, lane splitting is defined as follows: “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.”

Further, even though lane splitting is legal in California, it’s not without exceptions. The law comes with a few restrictions or caveats. For example, riding on the shoulder of a road or freeway is illegal and lanes should not be shared beside large vehicles, such as semi-trucks or motorhomes. Lane splitting should also not be maneuvered if the conditions of the road make it dangerous to do so. The width of the lanes, weather, and lighting/visibility should all be taken into consideration when determining whether it is safe to split lanes. 

It’s also worth noting that just because lane splitting is legal in California doesn’t mean it’s legal in other states. It’s crucial to be aware of this, especially if you’re travelling or planning a road trip outside the state. Currently, the only U.S. state that explicitly allows lane splitting is California. However, several other states are considering adopting similar legislation, including Connecticut, Oregon, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, and Massachusetts. 

Is Lane Splitting Safe?

Lane splitting can be safe, if the guidelines laid out by the California Highway Patrol are followed. We’ll dive into some of the California Highway Patrol’s key safety tips below. However, it must be noted that when it comes to the safety of lane splitting, there is not enough data on it. A study conducted in 2015 by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Centre at UC Berkeley found that 17 percent of the roughly 6,000 motorcyclists surveyed who crashed between June 2012 and August 2013 were lane splitting at the time of the accident. However, the study concluded the following, “Lane-splitting appears to be a relatively safe motorcycle riding strategy if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph.”

Further, it’s vital that both motorcyclists and automobile drivers be fully aware of the laws and best practices surrounding lane splitting. As mentioned above, many people are under the false impression that lane splitting is illegal, even in a state like California where it has been explicitly legalized. The first step is for all drivers to recognize that lane splitting is legal. This will help drivers of automobiles avoid road rage or actively discourage motorcycles from lane splitting. Once the legality of lane splitting in California is understood, there are a few best practices drivers can adopt to make lane splitting as safe as possible. For example, drivers should never intentionally block or impede a motorcyclist from lane splitting in a way that could cause them harm. Drivers should also never open their vehicle door to prevent a motorcyclist from passing. 

Lane Splitting Safety Tips

In September 2018, the California Highway Patrol, with the help of the Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, Office of Traffic Safety, and several motorcycle safety organizations, published a Lane Splitting Safety Tip guide for motorcyclists. The California Highway Patrol’s list of Lane Splitting Safety Tips outlines the practices to follow to ensure lane splitting is conducted safely. The guidelines urged motorcyclists to consider the total environment before lane splitting. Environmental factors to consider include the width of the lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, and the existing weather conditions. Other tips include avoiding lane splitting next to large vehicles, such as semi-trucks, making yourself as visible as possible and avoiding other vehicles’ blind spots, helping drivers see you by wearing brightly-colored or reflective clothing, splitting between the far left lanes of traffic rather than the right lanes, and finally, lane splitting at lower speeds. The guidelines note that the level of danger increases when the overall speed at which one is travelling increases or when the speed differentials (the difference between the motorcycle’s speed and the speed of other automobiles on the road) increases.


Lane splitting is a legal maneuver in the state of California, allowing motorcyclists to ride between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic in the same direction of said traffic. While there are some restrictions to the law, California has eliminated the gray area that previously surrounded this practice. They are the only U.S. state in which lane splitting is legal. Though more data is necessary to prove its safety, the California Highway Patrol has published a series of guidelines and tips to ensure lane splitting is conducted as safely as possible.

That said, accidents do happen, even when lane splitting safely. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, whether you were lane splitting at the time of the incident or not, you may have a personal injury case on your hands. To explore whether your case is worth pursuing, we recommend contacting a motorcycle accident injury attorney, like those at Aghabegian & Associates, PC. Here at Aghabegian & Associates, PC, we have a team of motorcycle accident injury experts. Our team has over 40 years of combined experience in the field of personal injury law and has won all kinds of auto accident cases, including motorcycle accident injury cases. Plus, we offer free consultations to all prospective clients and operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning no upfront or unexpected costs for you. We only get paid if we win your case. Get in touch today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced motorcycle accident injury attorneys.

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