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Lane-splitting is safe if drivers are courteous

When the New Year begins, California will be the only state in which lane-splitting is legal. Lane splitting is when you ride your motorcycle between lanes of traffic, particularly when other vehicles are stopped or roads are congested.

While the practice has been widely used and seldom prosecuted prior to becoming legal, lane- splitting often breeds resentment among drivers of larger vehicles. You may have experienced a car straddling the line to prevent you from coasting between lanes of traffic.

Statistics support the controversial new law

Rear-end collisions are the second most common crash that occurs between a motorcycle and a larger vehicle. They are more likely to happen when you are on your motorcycle waiting behind a line of stopped cars or when traffic is stop-and-go. Vehicles approaching from behind may not see you in time to avoid a collision.

If you are in a car, you may be dealing with a fender bender, exchanging information and going on your way with minor inconvenience. However, on your bike, you are likely to suffer serious harm - even fatal injuries.

By moving away from the end of the line of traffic, you protect yourself from danger. In fact, California's motorcycle fatality rate is 30 percent lower than those in other states with comparable riding seasons in which lane splitting is illegal.

The irate driver jeopardizing your safety

As long as you obey the law and use common sense, lane splitting is a safe action to take. Safety advocates recommend these guidelines:

  • Lane-split only when other traffic is traveling slower than 30 mph.
  • Travel between lanes no more than 10 mph faster than the traffic flow.
  • Use the space between the first two lanes instead of lanes where faster traffic travels.
  • Be alert for vehicles crossing the line.

Other drivers may take exception to you passing them when they are in stand-still traffic. They may believe you are taking advantage of the small size of your vehicle to get ahead of everyone else and feel it is their duty to teach you a lesson.

The driver of a larger vehicle who crosses the line or opens the door into your path while you are lane splitting is breaking the law. If these actions cause you injury, you have the right to contact a lawyer to pursue possible compensation. Even if the other driver was merely distracted or unaware and not intentionally blocking your path, you may be able to receive remuneration for your suffering. Your attorney will investigate the incident and guide you in taking the next step in your recovery.

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