On August, 19, 2016 Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, making California the first state in the country to legalize lane-splitting.
This is a huge win for motorcyclists all over the state, who are constantly put into harm’s way by inattentive drivers on highways during rush hour traffic. Particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is a significant change for many of our motorcycle accident clients.
Despite public opinion, lane-splitting is actually safer for motorcyclists to do than riding between automobiles during commute hours and stop-and-go traffic. UC Berkeley recently released a study that evidences that lane-splitters, as opposed to non-lane-splitters, are far less likely to suffer head injuries, torso injuries, and death by splitting lanes at 50 mph or slower. The safety concerns for motorcyclists, as well as surrounding vehicles, are at the heart of this legislation. Specifically, AB 51 permits the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines for motorcyclists to follow relating to lane-splitting in order to “ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles.”
Hopefully the passage of this law will decrease bias and animosity against motorcyclists on the road. Although this law is a step in the right direction, there continues to be a bias among the general population against lane-splitting motorcyclists. As a California motorcycle accident lawyer, I have seen a variety of reasons motorists are biased against motorcyclists. These can include: drivers wanting a reason to pay less attention while they sitting in rush-hour traffic; they are envious that motorcyclists can get where they are going faster and don’t have to sit in stop-and-go traffic. Also, motorcyclists are often thought of as adrenaline junkies or “thrill-seekers” who are asking for trouble when hopping on their motorcycle.
This new lane-splitting law means motorists who are not driving cautiously, not paying attention, and not checking their blind spots before making a lane change during rush hour have one less excuse! Motorists must be attentive and aware of their surroundings and particularly cautious of motorcycle traffic with the legalization of lane-splitting. The combination of the law and increased motorist awareness will undoubtedly lead to fewer accidents and injuries among motorcyclists in California.
As a personal injury attorney focusing on helping motorcycle accident victims, I am personally very pleased to see this change and hope that it leads to safer riding across the state of California. If you or someone you care about has been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, please contact our motorcycle injury legal team for a free ONLINE motorcycle accident case evaluation now to see if we can help.