Riding a motorcycle can be an exhilarating experience. Those that own and regularly ride motorcycles cite their amazing ability to not only act as a form of transit, but to relax and distract them from the rigors of life. Although motorcycles are an enjoyable, efficient mode of travel, they are not nearly as safe to ride as passenger cars. In an accident, a motorcyclist sustains much worse damage than a driver might in the same collision. While individuals driving cars are protected by their vehicle’s four walls and airbag system, a motorcyclist only has their helmet and the clothing on their back for protection. This makes motorcycle accidents extremely dangerous.

What is Lane Splitting?

Motorcycles are like other vehicles in that they operate on roadways, abiding by all laws associated with passenger vehicles, buses, etc. However, motorcycles are much thinner in diameter than other motorized forms of transit. In fact, they are so small that they can fit in between two cars that are driving parallel in different lanes. This is what lane splitting is.

Lane splitting is advantageous because it allows motorcyclists to travel at a much faster rate than if they were required to ride behind passenger vehicles even in congested settings. Though lane splitting is useful, it is also very dangerous.

Why is Lane Splitting so Dangerous?

Lane splitting puts motorcyclists at risk for additional accidents on top of the general risk associated with driving. Oftentimes, drivers don’t expect to see riders barreling down the freeway, and are caught off-guard when one speeds past directly next to them. This same surprise creates accidents when a lane splitting motorcyclist gets sideswiped by a driver that might be driving close to the white line that separates lanes. The visibility of riders while they lane-split is not always great, creating issues when drivers don’t see or expect a rider to drive past, especially so close.

When Should I Refrain from Lane Splitting?

Motorcyclists should not lane split when there obviously isn’t enough space to pass safely in between two cars. Traffic is unpredictable, and drivers can spontaneously swerve to avoid road obstacles or change lanes, sometimes without even signaling.

Riders shouldn’t engage in lane splitting when road conditions are unsafe. This includes factors like inclement weather conditions, unsafe terrain or road curvature, and being around drivers that are driving too fast to maintain safety.

Lane-splitting should also be a non-option when the motorcyclist is tired, distracted, uncomfortable, or otherwise not alert. Though it might be hard to make this judgment call on your own behalf, sometimes taking your own mental state into consideration could save your life.

How Can I Practice Safe Lane Splitting?

Though a motorcyclist cannot control the external road conditions, they can make sure that they practice safe lane splitting habits that could prevent accidents from occurring. At the very least, these habits prevent the rider from possessing a large amount of fault if an accident does occur.

  • Do not lane split while riding more than 10 mph faster than traffic. Lane splitting allows you to pass more vehicles, but excessive speeding/racing to pass a vehicle is unsafe.
  • Do not lane split when drivers are operating at more than 30 mph. This means no lane splitting on freeways, highways, or other speedy roadways.
  • Try to lane split between the two left-most lanes, much like passenger cars use this lane to pass.
  • Remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Do not aggravate other drivers by riding aggressively.

Lane splitting is an effective method to beat morning traffic, but if done incorrectly, it can be extremely dangerous. Passenger drivers are still human, and are prone to making mistakes that could cost you your life if you aren’t alert and ready to take action. Remember to adhere to lane splitting safety precautions to increase your safety on the road. And if you do happen to sustain injury in a collision with a driver, contact a motorcycle accident attorney to discuss your options.