Monday, December 8, 2014

Study Shows Lane-Splitting Safe, But Speed Increases Risk

Lane-splitting is when a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line. Allowed only in California, the practice was the subject of a recent study by University of California-Berkeley and the state Office of Traffic Safety. The research teams found that 62% of motorcyclists say they lane-split on both freeways and other roads.

© Van Duren
Seventy-five percent of riders between ages 18 and 24 report they lane-split on all roads, including freeways. Technically, state law doesn’t prohibit or permit the practice, but it has caused controversy as drivers complain that it is difficult to spot motorcycle riders who speed in between cars, which can increase the risk of crashes. 

As part of the UC-Berkeley study, 80 law enforcement agencies completed a supplemental information sheet reporting on 8,262 motorcycle riders in collisions. Based on the data, researchers concluded that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in a marked lane. However, the research team also reports that lane-splitters who ride at speeds 10 mph faster than traffic they pass stand a greater risk of being in an collision. 

Last year, California Highway Patrol (CHP) published guidelines on when motorcyclists should or should not lane-split, suggesting riders should not travel more than 10 mph faster than traffic and should not lane-split at all if vehicles are traveling faster than 30 mph. CHP removed the guidelines in response to concerns that publishing constituted illegal regulations.

The research team is sharing its results with CHP and a more in-depth study is underway.