David Whiting: Accidents show lane-split danger
California is poised to be the first state to officially sanction lane-splitting by motorcyclists. The Assembly has approved a bill to permit bikers to ride between cars at speeds up to 15 mph faster than surrounding traffic.
The first time I split lanes riding a motorcycle I was so terrified keeping up with my buddies it never occurred to me that car drivers might, too, be scared.
Yet according to a bill sailing through the Legislature, threading between cars and trucks with inches to spare actually makes our roads safer.
That’s right. Our Golden State is heading toward legalizing one of the dumbest practices on asphalt.
How dumb? The justifications cited in the bill’s comment section are that it’s “legal in many European and Asian countries,” and motorcyclists will get to their destinations faster.
If they arrive at all.
According to an exhaustive new study, one-sixth of the motorcycle collisions examined involved lane splitting. That means that from June 2012 through August 2013, California lane-splitting riders were in 996 accidents.
While the study concluded lane-splitting motorcyclists were less likely to be rear-ended, it also pointed out lane splitters were “more likely to rear-end another vehicle (such as a car) than other riders.”
A law on lane splitting make sense – just not this law.
For decades, lane splitting has remained the Wild West. Unlike most states, California doesn’t make it legal. But it also doesn’t make it illegal.
Without law and to help make the practice less dangerous, the California Highway Patrol and the state Office of Traffic Safety wrote a set of guidelines to clarify how riders should behave. But according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, traffic officials “chose not to issue, use or enforce guidelines.”
People complained about the murky situation. Agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles removed the guidelines after they were branded “underground regulations.”
“The underlying purpose of the guidelines,” the DMV explains on its website that once detailed what to do when lane splitting, “was to provide common-sense traffic safety information.”
Yes, public officials took down what other public officials considered common sense.
Here is what the bill, AB51, proposes and what our state Senate soon will vote on:
When lane splitting, motorcyclists shouldn’t exceed 50 mph.