Lane-splitting, minimum wage among California’s top new laws

Thursday, September 14, 2017

At about this time every year, the legislative session in California is winding down. Sept. 15 is the last day for the governor to sign any bill this year. As the legislative year comes to an end, I once again summarize several of the new laws that I believe are of most importance to our readers:

Assembly Bill 51 was authored by Democratic Assemblymember Bill Quirk, whose district District 20 encompasses Hayward, Union City, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Sunol and North Fremont. AB 51 defines “lane-splitting” as two-wheeled vehicles traveling between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads and highways.

Lane-splitting in California has been legal for years. The reasons why include the fact that many motorcycles are air-cooled and rely on air passing over the engine to keep the engine from overheating. It also allows motorcycles to position themselves so that they do not get “sandwiched” between two vehicles and crushed in a rear-end collision.

AB 51 prompts the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines relating to lane-splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist and the drivers and passengers of the surrounding vehicles. It is anticipated that the CHP will set forth conditions under which lane-splitting will be permitted, such as traffic, speeds and between which lanes motorcycles may lane split. Hopefully, the guidelines and public education programs will help motorists to become aware of the conditions under which they need to be watchful for lane-splitting motorcyclists, as well as provide guidelines to motorcyclists so that they split lanes in a safe fashion.

I think this law is great for public safety, as we all too often get calls from motorcyclists that are injured while lane-splitting. Most motorists, when sued following such an event, are unaware that the motorcycle was operating lawfully at the time of the collision. From a pure legal standpoint, the law will help injured motorcyclists, who are operating within the guidelines, defend themselves against accusations of being contributorily (partially) at fault for exercising their right to lane split.