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Is lane-splitting legal in California?

No matter how much experience you have on the back of a motorcycle, you could still have questions and/or concerns over California road safety guidelines regarding the practice of lane splitting. Major law enforcement agencies and regulators in the state have refrained from offering guidance to motorcyclists on lane splitting, allowing for confusion and doubt as to what is and isn’t permissible under the law.

The Los Angeles Times discusses lane splitting, and explains that the practice is legal in the state of California. Despite the fact that the act of motorcycles moving between lanes of traffic is largely banned across the country, motorcycle safety advocates and riders alike generally agree that lane splitting helps to prevent serious and potentially fatal motorcycle accident injuries. The practice is also believed to help prevent incidents of motorcycles overheating in traffic, and decreases the chance of being struck from behind by larger vehicles.

It is estimated that 170 lives could be saved every year if lane splitting was legal on a national level, and up to 18,000 motorcycle accidents could be prevented. However, neither the California Highway Patrol nor the California Department of Motor Vehicles is currently promoting the practice. Both agencies removed lane-splitting guidelines from their websites following complaints from one person and the opinion of the Office of Administrative Law. A lack of lane-splitting awareness on the part of motorists is also believed to have contributed to disapproval of the practice and even aggression against motorcyclists in some cases.

Still, you and other experienced motorcycle riders are still legally allowed to ride between slowing and stopped lanes of traffic, as long as you do so responsibly. The practice could even help to prevent you from being in a serious motorcycle collision in some cases.

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