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California bill seeks to make motorcycle lane-splitting legal

Given how common motorcycle lane-splitting is in Southern California - particularly during rush hour - many motorists may be amazed to learn that this controversial method for navigating traffic is technically not legal or illegal under current state law. Instead, the practice of motorcycle lane-splitting is simply based on an unspoken understanding shared by motorcyclists, motorists and police alike.

However, the fact that motorcycle lane-splitting is nether forbidden or allowed under state law may soon change, especially if some California lawmakers have their way. A proposed bill - otherwise known as Assembly Bill 51 - would, if passed, make lane-splitting expressly legal for motorcyclists. No longer would there be any legal ambiguity regarding the practice.

While AB 51 seeks to permit lane-splitting, the language of the proposed legislation states that it could only be done if two very specific conditions were first met: the motorcycle is not traveling more than 50 mph AND the motorcycle is traveling no more than 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic.

Not surprisingly, this bill has its share of both supporters and detractors. On one hand, proponents feel it is about time the practice be codified in law, not to mention that lane-splitting reduces the risk of motorcyclists being rear-ended by inattentive drivers when stopped in traffic. Alternatively, opponents believe lane-splitting itself is inherently dangerous.

Even though the bill has already made its way through the Assembly, and is now with the Senate, it remains to be seen if it will ever become law. In any case, the ultimate concern should always be public safety.

So, what do you think? Should lane-splitting be legal in California?

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