Motorcycle lane splitting guidelines have been an unwritten rule for what seems like forever in California. Take any motorcycle safety class and the instructor will tell you the same thing:
It’s not illegal, but there is no law. For now, the general “suggestion” is to make sure you never lane split going faster than 30 mph, or more than 10 mph faster than the vehicles you’re splitting.
That all changed last August, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), which authorized the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop actual written “educational guidelines” for motorcycle lane splitting.
After many years remaining in a “grey area” of the law – not legal, but not illegal - motorcycle lane splitting is finally heading for some form of state regulation. However, 10 months have passed since the Governor signed AB 51, and there is still no timeline for when the official guidelines will be released by CHP.
Lane splitting, when conducted safely, is a very sufficient form of motorcycle transportation:
Video source: YouTube User MotorcycleJosh1
What is the latest from CHP regarding the new lane splitting guidelines?
Wilshire Law Firm is an integral part of the motorcycle community here in California. We help motorists and families of motorists who are involved in motorcycle accidents every day. Not to mention lane splitting affects every day drivers as well. So, since CHP hasn’t gone public with their progress on the lane splitting guidelines, we decided to call them ourselves to get an informed update.
According to sources in CHP's department of media relations, CHP “has been working very hard on this issue. It takes time...” and, “It's a complex, long process.”
While the Governor has provided no specific time limit on this matter, one might’ve assumed that CHP slated this issue to the backburner. However, based on what they told us, we believe this is a very important issue for the CHP.
Lane splitting in Paris, France, like California, is not illegal.
Who exactly is drafting the new “educational guidelines?”
AB 51 calls for the CHP, specifically the Motor Cycle Safety Unit, to consult the DMV, DOT, OTS and other “motorcycle organizations focused on motorcyclist safety” in drafting the new guidelines. Perhaps this is the reason the guidelines are taking so long to draft.
Wilshire Law Firm has put in multiple calls to CHP Motorcycle Safety Unit officers who are responsible for drafting the new guidelines with direct regards to this important matter. At the time of publication of this post, our calls have yet to be returned. Rest assured, we will update this blog the second we hear back. Below are some of the questions we’d like answers to:
- When do you expect to release the new guidelines to the public?
- Which motorcycle safety organizations are helping you draft the guidelines?
- What, specifically, has made this process “long and complex?”
Does lane splitting make the roads safer and/or faster?
Whatever the guidelines end up saying, there’s no arguing that lane splitting makes California’s roads safer, and faster.
Scholars agree with this notion.
A recent lane splitting study conducted by the University of Berkeley says, “Motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists, and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries."
One blogger from NewAtlas.com writes, “Filtering (or, lane splitting) bikes work their way to the front of stopped traffic at red lights, and accelerate away much quicker than the cars around them. When they reach the next stoppage, they disappear again between the lanes and no car is held up.”
What are the motorcycle lane splitting guidelines?
Until CHP releases the new official guidelines, here is the generally accepted suggestion, according to the California Motorcyclist Safety Program:
- Travel no more than 10 mph faster than the other traffic – a speed differential of 10 miles per hour or less allows an experienced rider enough time to identify and react to danger. The greater the speed differential, the less time a rider has to react.
- Do no split lanes when traffic is moving 30 mph or faster – danger increases dramatically as speed increases. At just 20 mph, an experienced rider will travel 30 to 60 feet in under two seconds before initiating evasive actions.
- It is typically safer to split between lanes 1 and 2 – avoid splitting lanes anywhere else, as this location is where other motorists are accustomed to seeing and experiencing motorcycle lane splitting. Avoid lane splitting near freeway ramps and slow lanes.
- If you can’t fit, don’t split – know the limitations of your motorcycle as it compares to the motorists around you. Avoid splitting in unfamiliar roads. Avoid splitting near wide trucks.
- Remain alert and always anticipate movements by other motorists – use your space, be aware of your surroundings as they develop, account for inattentive drivers or distracted drivers, never linger in blind spots, and, of course, never ride while impaired by drugs, alcohol, stress or fatigue.
These guidelines are a small sample of what CHP will be releasing as the official state mandated lane splitting guidelines at some point in the near future.
Be sure to stay tuned to WilshireLawFirm.com/blog for updates as we learn more about these very critical guidelines! If you care to make a suggestion to CHP about what the guidelines should be, feel free to let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@WilshireLawFirm).
What is a rear-end motorcycle collision?
Similar to a rear-end collision between two cars, a motorcycle rear-end collision is when a car, truck, or other type of vehicle neglects to stop or slow down in time, and rear-ends a motorcycle.
Rear-end collisions often result in seriously unfortunate personal injuries for motorcycle riders, such as:
- Head trauma
- Spinal cord injury
- Broken bones
A rear-end motorcycle collision is one of the worst types of accidents for motorcycles. They mostly occur in heavy traffic, when the rider is stopped at a red light, but they also happen at high speeds and are sometimes the result of road rage.
Who doesn’t enjoy a little road rage?
One way California has attempted to make roads less prone to rear-end motorcycle collisions is through the legalization of lane splitting in California.
Side note: If you stumbled upon this post because you recently got into a motorcycle accident, please immediately alert the police and seek proper medical treatment for your injuries – even if you don’t have insurance.
Do not admit fault!
Then, give the award-winning motorcycle accident attorneys of Wilshire Law Firm a call at 1-866-703-5073. Our team is available 24/7, 365 to take your call and give you a free case evaluation.
You could be entitled to serious compensation.
To Lane-Split, or Get Rear-Ended.… That is the Question!
Lane splitting is legal in the state of California, and for good reason.
It helps motorcyclists avoid the horrific possibility of getting rear-ended by a distracted, disgruntled, impatient, or drunk drivers.
According to a state-funded report from the University of Berkeley:
“The practice [of lane splitting] increases safety by allowing motorcycle riders to avoid the risk of rear-end collisions in stopped or slow-moving traffic.”
The study found that lane splitting increases rider safety, yes, but it also increases the overall flow of traffic for passenger drivers:
“Lane splitting eases traffic congestion by taking motorcyclists out of the line of cars and trucks.”
Study conducted by Thomas Rice, PhD. Download the full report.
Passenger car drivers will never understand… That’s BS!
At Wilshire Law Firm, not only do we help motorcycle accident injury victims recover rightful compensation, every day, we ride motorcycles ourselves.
Plus, we talk to the people who influence California’s lane splitting guidelines on a regular basis. Read what they say here.
Motorcycle lane splitting affects everyone
Whether you ride or not, lane splitting is a serious issue for all Californians. Every one of us is affected by it, almost every day.
Depending on your personal experience, you may have a negative outlook toward lane splitting, or you may not.
However, for many Californians, there is a major divide in thinking between the riders who split, and the drivers who get split.
And it’s not always friendly.
California Lane splitting, or lane sharing?
The word “split” by itself has a negative connotation, which is why one California motorcycle leader, Bud Kobza, prefers to use the term “lane sharing” instead.
But it’s not just words that give the what-should-be-safe traffic practice a bad rap.
Sometimes, it’s bad riders.
We’ve all had a similar experience…
You’re sitting in the passenger seat of your friend’s car, or in the backseat of an Uber, happily minding your own business as you cruise down the freeway, on your way to see friends, family, dinner, a movie, work… whatever it is that you do!
The sun is setting over beautiful palm trees and cotton candy skies. You notice the mountain range in the distance.
Your favorite song comes on the radio. You ask the driver to turn up the music as you sink into your seat, take a sip of your coffee, and get ready for some serious road trip relaxation.
As you cruise down the middle lane of the freeway, an amazing car pulls up next to you. Your dream car! You notice the beauty of the paint, the crisp, chrome wheels spinning, and you can hear the hum of its massive engine as it lines up directly next to your window in all its glory.
For a brief second, you day dream of a better life, and then you find complete relaxation… life is beautiful…
Then… BAM! Vrrrroooommmm!!!!!
A reckless motorcycle WHIPS between you and the other car, abruptly ending your day dream, giving you whiplash, and almost a heart attack!
According to your spilled coffee, that has now stained your shirt and burned your chest, that motorcycle was going way too fast!
You see the motorcycle rip up the freeway. You can’t believe there’s actually a woman wearing short shorts on the backseat!
The motorcycle repeats the same high-speed, lane-splitting maneuver multiple times, cutting multiple cars off, before it’s completely out of sight.
You pull yourself together, wipe the wetness of your drink with a napkin (if you have one), and then look back to your dream car, to see if they had the same reaction.
But it’s gone. It got off at the last exit and you didn’t even notice.
OKAY – maybe you didn’t have that exact experience, but you know what we mean!
Motorcycles must ride responsibly. They are not infallible.
But that doesn’t mean you can run them off the road….
It’s hard to relate to lane splitters
Registered motorcycles only account for 6% of the total registered vehicles in California, and when you factor them into the entire United States, they account for only .3%. Most motorcycle riders in the U.S. live in one of the other 49 U.S. states, where lane splitting is illegal.
That means lane splitting in California is perhaps the most unique form of road transportation in the United States!
California lane splitting guidelines update alert!
Learn more about the award-winning motorcycle accident attorneys of Wilshire Law Firm.
Lane splitting in California continues to remain influx. As part of our continuing coverage of the updated guidelines, we spoke with A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education(ABATE) California State Chairman, Glenn Phillips.
Glenn was kind enough to answer a couple questions over email, about his experience as one of the committee members working with CHP to influence the new guidelines.
WLF: What was ABATE’s suggestion for the guidelines?
GP: Originally we did not want any speed limitations. But with time we amended our support to 15 mph above traffic and no more than 50 mph while splitting. We are still waiting for the guidelines to become official in its final version.
UPDATE: The guidelines that Glenn contributed to are currently on the CHP Commissioner’s desk, however, the Commissioner recently stepped down, before approving the new guidelines, according to CHP Sergeant Larry Starkey.
The fate of the guidelines is now at the discretion of the next CHP Commissioner, who has yet to be appointed.
WLF: If you could say one thing to educate passenger car drivers with regards to lane sharing/splitting, what would you say?
GP: That lane splitting is safer for us riders than being confined between two stopped vehicles. It is a necessity due to the models and brands with air-cooled engines to prevent overheating. Lane splitting is now legal and for those that choose to impede that process – you are breaking the law. We need to ensure that drivers driving in a slowed condition need to expect and watch for lane splitting and move over safely.
MORE ABOUT ABATE:
ABATE is a motorcycle organization that has over 350,000 members nationwide.
According to ABATE, they’re, “Dedicated to preserving individual freedom and promoting safety.”
If you can’t stand by that, what can you stand by?!
Furthermore, ABATE fully supports rider training, safety, and education. Their members regularly raise funds for the less fortunate, through charity runs and benefits. Plus, they encourage their members to be active in their local communities.
Past lane splitting coverage from Wilshire Law Firm:
Wilshire Law Firm also spoke with BARF Founder Bud Kobza about his contribution to the guidelines. He was kind enough to provide us with the original guidelines, which you can view here:
- New Motorcycle Lane Splitting or “Sharing” Guidelines on the Horizon, Sources
- CHP: Drafting Lane Splitting Guidelines “Very Long, Complex Process”
Wilshire Law Firm deeply cares for the motorcycle community of California and all riders across the United States. Lane splitting in California affects all drivers, and we will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about the status of the new guidelines.
New Motorcycle Lane Splitting or “Sharing” Guidelines on the Horizon, Sources
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) was authorized to write new motorcycle lane splitting (or, “sharing”) guidelines last August by California Governor Jerry Brown (Assembly Bill 51). Now, it’s been almost a year since CHP spoke publicly on the status of the guidelines.
So, Wilshire Law Firm reached out directly to the people who are responsible for writing the guidelines, and we’re pleased to provide our readers with the following direct updates, straight from the sources.
The California Highway Patrol
Larry Starkey, the California State Coordinator for the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, says a draft of the new guidelines was officially submitted to CHP Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow several weeks ago.
At that time, according to Starkey, who has been with CHP for 15 years, and served as a petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, the fate of the guidelines rested in the hands of Commissioner Farrow, whose options were:
- Approve it
- Change it himself and then approve it
- Request more changes from Starkey
- Throw it out completely
“It’s completely up to the Commissioner,” Starkey said.
However, since Starkey spoke to Wilshire Law Firm, Commissioner Farrow has stepped down from CHP.
So where does that leave the guidelines?
Starkey says, “when you add up all the hours spent from all the groups involved in drafting the new guidelines… at least 100 hours.”
“The guidelines are meant for educational purposes,” Starkey says. “Once they’re finalized, we’ll move forward with a full-blown marketing campaign to raise awareness. TV, radio and billboard ads, plus, CHP kiosks to educate riders, and drivers, on how to properly interact with each other on the roads.”
Starkey said he anticipates the marketing campaign to cost “about $1 million.”
Which private groups did CHP consult with?
AB 51 mandated the CHP to consult several government and private groups in drafting the new guidelines.
Government groups included DMV, OTS, CalTrans and DOT. Private groups, who were required to be “motorcycle organizations with a focus on motorcycle safety,” which made up the CMSPAC (California Motorcycle Safety Program Advisory Committee) this included:
ABATE of California (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments)
BARF (Bay Area Riders Forum)
AMA (American Motorcycle Association)
MMA (Modified Motorcycle Association)
MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council)
Wilshire Law Firm is proud to call several leaders of these groups our friends.
Bay Area Riders Forum
Bud Kobza has been a board member of California Motorcycle Safety Committee for seven years, and is the owner/operator of the largest online motorcycle discussion board in California, the Bay Area Riders Forum.
Bud also sits on the California Motorcycle Safety Program Advisory Committee, which, with the other motorcycle groups listed and few government agencies, consulted directly with CHP on the most recent lane sharing guidelines.
“There were essentially two schools of thought in the drafting process,” Kobza said. “First, you had the motorcycle groups, who wanted the guidelines to follow a state-funded study, which was conducted at the University of Berkeley, by one Dr. Tom Rice, which suggested 15 mph passing speeds, in up to 50 mph traffic. So, essentially, lane sharing up to 65 mph.
“The second school of thought was the CHP, who wanted the original guidelines of 10 mph passing, 30 mph passenger vehicle max speeds.
“We thought CHP would have gone for what the Berkeley study said, since it was state-funded. But when we all got together in Sacramento, CHP wasn’t hearing it. I think it was too extreme compared to what other states are doing concerning lane sharing.”
To clarify, the state-funded Berkeley study was proposed by Bud and his comrades from CMSC, and was funded by the state, as part of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
“We tried presenting a tiered program, that would advise slower lane splitting speeds for less-experienced drivers,” Bud said. “They didn’t go for that either.”
California is currently the only state that allows motorcyclists to lane split. It is illegal in every other state, although, that could change soon.
When were guidelines first introduced to the state?
Seven years ago, when Bud joined CMSC, the DMV moved to outlaw lane splitting altogether. If it wasn’t for Bud, and the CMSC, fighting the DMV, lane splitting might be illegal today.
“I was the new guy back then,” Bud says. “I took that fight on, and we won. We wanted to educate, not regulate.”
The fruits of Bud’s labor was the first official lane splitting guideline approved by the state of California. 20 guidelines in total were submitted in 2010, and those approved were posted to CHP, DMV and other government agency websites.
However, three years later, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) ordered the guidelines to be removed from government sites; and all physical marketing materials were removed from all said agencies’ offices. It was the work of Kenneth Mandler, who petitioned the OAL in the fall of 2013.
Mandler claimed that the guidelines were “underground regulation.” In other words, a law that was not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act.
OAL did not honor Mandler’s petition, according to AMA, but his raising the issue was enough for CHP to take the guidelines off their site, which was a loss for Bud and the CMSC.
This is why the current status of the guidelines are important. It’s been years since CHP has officially approved lane sharing guidelines. Commissioner Farrow could make an announcement any day.
When asked if there was one thing he could tell motorists in passenger cars to be aware of when considering motorcyclists, Bud said:
“First of all, don’t be jealous that we’re not waiting in line at the red lights. We’re not trying to beat you. We’re just taking advantage of being mobile.” He went on to say, “We are fathers, mothers, brothers, sister… humans. Just like you, all we want to do is get home safely to our families.”
What were the original guidelines?
Seven years ago, when the DMV tried to make lane sharing illegal, the CMSC drafted guidelines, as mentioned above. Several members of the CMSC held a lane sharing summit to discuss the guidelines inviting other safety stake holders and riders to attend and collaborate. Bud’s friend, Tim Arnold, kept photos of the original ideas for the guidelines. Here they are in their raw form. The very first motorcycle lane sharing, state-recognized educational guidelines, in ink!
Hire a California Motorcycle Lawyer you Can Trust
Road rage, distracted drivers and other vehicle operators who rear-end motorcycles and their insurance companies must be held accountable for their negligence.
If you have sustained injuries from a rear-end motorcycle collision, we strongly urge you to call the award-winning motorcycle accident lawyers of Wilshire Law Firm.
Our team of legal experts is standing by 24/7, 365 to take your call and give you a free case evaluation!
Don’t delay, call Wilshire Law Firm today!