Motorcycle Lane Splitting: Is it Legal, Safe?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 17, 2011 6:46 AM

It helps congestion.

It causes accidents.

Whatever your opinion on motorcycle lane splitting--the practice of driving between cars in slow or idling traffic--it is undoubtedly based on whether your ride has 2 or 4 wheels.

But more importantly, is it legal? Is it safe? And how does it impact a lawsuit should there be an accident?

As of now, motorcycle lane splitting is only legal in the state of California, though there may be some participating localities across the country. Arizona is also on the verge of enacting a trial run of the practice in Maricopa County.

As for being safe, there is a lot of debate and no real answer.

Motorcyclists often fear being rear-ended, particularly in stop-and-go traffic, reports The Infrastructurist. They feel that lane splitting allows them to avoid those dangerous situations in addition to helping alleviate traffic congestion.

Drivers? Well, many Californians have at least one story about almost hitting an unseen motorcyclist or being startled by a lane splitter.

Which brings us to another point: just because it's legal doesn't mean an accident isn't your fault.

Courts have repeatedly said that the law enforces a minimum standard of care, but that circumstances may require parties to go above and beyond.

What this means for you is that, if you were hit by a car while motorcycle lane splitting in a jurisdiction where legal, a jury could still find that your actions were negligent given the situation. Such a determination could bar part or all of your recovery.

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