Is lane splitting safe for motorcycles?

Is lane splitting safe for motorcycles?

Lane splitting – the practice of driving along the dotted lines in between traffic lanes – is safer for motorcyclists than driving in designated traffic lanes, according to a study recently published by the University of California, Berkeley. And, California lawmakers are now considering a law to legalize it.

In California, the traffic evasion tactic is neither explicitly legal nor illegal, and if the law passes, California would become the first state to officially legalize lane splitting. Laws regarding this act of toggling between driving lanes varies from state to state, and in Illinois the practice is illegal.

The proposed bill would allow motorcyclists to split lanes as long as they travel under 50 mph and travel no more than 15 mph faster than traffic, as the study finds that lane splitting is safest within these parameters. The proposal has shed a new light on motorcycle safety, a hot topic during the summer months when bikers are most likely to hit the open road.

Dr. Dipul Patadia, an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., has treated countless motorcycle crash victims over the years. Although he is neither in favor nor against the proposal, Dr. Patadia urges motorcyclists take the necessary precautions when driving on the road and drivers be aware of motorcycles on the road.

“Helmets save lives,” Dr. Patadia says. “Many times a helmet can be the difference between life and death for a motorcyclist who is involved in a crash.”

Dr. Patadia also urges drivers to be aware of increased motorcycle use during the summer. He recommends drivers put down their cell phones and be alert, especially when checking their blind spots, because motorcycles can be quick, small and difficult to see when changing lanes.

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  1. I see bumper stickers on cars that say “Watch for motorcycles”. Although I agree with that motorcycles also need to watch out for cars. I know that most motorcycle drivers are cautious but some drive very irresponsibly. They weave between cars, tailgate, swich lanes abruptly, and I have seen them actually drive between two cars on a lane marker stripe. We all must share the road and be responsible. I have apologized to motorcycle drivers for my mistakes in not seeing them when I should. I have never received an apology from them for their driving mistakes!

  2. Kennith Hunter June 10, 2015 at 11:52 am · Reply

    I do not think the issue is drivers of cars needing to look out for motorcyclists, but motorcyclists driving within the laws and commonsense. I have been driving for 50+ years and I believe that 95% of the accidents I have seen involving cars and motorcyclists are the fault of the motorcyclists. I routinely observe motorcyclists driving far above the speed limit, driving without helmets (which lead to long smear streaks on roads when a head hits pavement at high speeds), weaving between lanes at high speeds, and driving only on the rear wheel – all on interstates and state roads. Splitting lanes in Illinois will likely lead to an increase in motorcycle accident rates and probably a higher death rate.

    • Kennith, if you look at the data you might change your mind. While many motorcyclists do behave irresponsibly, the fact is that most motorcycle accidents are caused by cars. The most common cause – 42% are caused by cars turning left in front of a motorcycle they didnt’ see. Many others are caused by cars pulling out in front of motorcycles. Having experienced it personally, and witnessed a fatality caused by a woman in a minivan full of kids, I think one has to be crazy to ride a motorcycle on the road amongst all of the inattentive car drivers out there.

  3. William E Schuh June 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm · Reply

    All parties should be aware of the hazards , this article makes it sound like most of these accident with motorcycles are caused by the car driver, when I constantly see motorcycle drivers swerving back and forth into the lanes of traffic, in and out of the cars with absolutely no regard to the others on the road. Motorcycle drivers need to be more responsible also. I should note that I have been riding for 40 years and I am making these remarks as a Bike rider.

  4. This is crazy. Lane splitting is an unsafe practice in general. People in cars don’t change lanes safely. The dotted line is sometimes (often) where there are road hazards and uneven surfaces. What happens when a car doesn’t see the motorcycle (blind spot) and changes lanes and there is an accident? Who is at fault now that the dotted line is a legal “lane” – it’s just messy and while I understand it’s no different than any other accident investigation, it REALLY is given the lack of steel surrounding a motorcyclist vs. a car. Maybe California should look at allowing motorcycles to drive in the break down lanes instead, at least then they would have a “dedicated” full lane instead of a narrow mock lane. Massachusetts allows cars to use the break down lane during rush hour and that can be scary enough!

  5. Having lived in California in the 80’s this was a common thing back then for motorcyclists to do in traffic. We as drivers knew they could be there and we watched out for them. It was a very scary thing for me to experience when I first moved there, however I got use to it quickly although it still scared me when they passed me unexpectedly.
    As a rider now myself, most of my near misses have been due to the motorvehicle driver not paying attention, not my error. Yes there are those who weave in and out of traffic and drive recklessly but I have seen the same behavior in motorvehicle drivers doing the same. Both are accidents waiting to happen! I have a flashing headlight to draw attention to myself so that drivers will see me (it only flashes during the daylight hours) however I have been nearly hit while the driver was looking straight at me and pulled out in front of me.
    I do agree that helmets can save lives, however when you are on a highway going 65 mph and you are hit….. that helmet will just make you look a little nicer in your coffin.

  6. From what I recall of the IDOT study on motorcycle accidents, roughly 70% of all motorcycle accidents are the motorcyclist’s fault. Those between motorcycles and other vehicles are roughly equal. As a motorcycle safety instructor, I would say a helmet is a good start but all gear is needed. During lunch break at recent class, we instructors were greater critics of foolish riders than the general public, probably because we see more and know more of the consequences.

    Here in Illinois, I don’t see lane splitting a safe thing to do, mainly because of what I observe with other drivers, namely the failure to use turn signals, and frequent lane changes to get ahead. In California, it is illegal to make frequent lane changes and the drivers there do so less frequently than here. Another factor is the lanes here tend to be narrower. Likewise, many drivers here are not used to seeing motorcycles. In California they ride year round, here roughly March through October with a few die-hards in the winter.

    A major factor in improving motorcycle safety, beyond appropriate gear, is that riders need formal training. A rider that learned from a friend is like a driver doing the same. Some proper techniques are counter-intuitive. The state of Illinois provides free training sponsored by IDOT through Harper College, Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois, and Southern Illinois University at around 100 sites throughout the state. Motorcycles, curriculum, and helmets are provided. The training is based on extensive research and development by programs and instructors certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Other commercial training is also available.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.