Guidelines on Lane Splitting are Published by the California Highway Patrol
SACRAMENTO – In 2016 Assemblymembers Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer introduced AB 51 to grant the CHP authority to draft educational guidelines on lane splitting. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between rows of stopped or moving traffic. AB 51 was signed into law in 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown.
According to information by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), California is the only state in the country in which lane splitting is legal. “It’s legal in California because statute does not explicitly prohibit it. This gray area has made it a challenge for public safety officials to uniformly implement traffic safety laws,” explained Assemblymember Quirk.
There are several practical reasons for allowing a motorcycle to lane split under certain conditions: traffic congestion is slightly reduced, motorcycles have no air bags, no cooling mechanism, no cages, and motorcyclists are at a lower visibility to other drivers when travelling on highly congested roads.
Recognizing the need to develop guidelines as an education tool for drivers, the CHP convened a committee of traffic safety stakeholders and motorcycle safety experts in 2012. However, an individual filed a complaint that the guidelines were underground regulations. At the suggestion of counsel, CHP removed the guidelines from its website and the Department of Motor Vehicles removed them from the Motorcycle Handbook.
“Removal of the guidelines left a huge gap with regards to traffic safety. CHP had to curtail all education and outreach efforts on lane splitting. I partnered with Assemblymember Lackey to change that. After many productive discussions with CHP and the motorcycle community we sent the Governor a bill that granted the CHP this critical authority to help educate motorcyclists and motorists.”
With the authority provided to them in AB 51, the CHP convened a group of stakeholders who provided their expert opinion in the drafting of the guidelines. These guidelines were recently published on the “California Motorcycle Safety” section of CHP’s website and include the following tips:
- Consider the total environment when lane splitting
- Avoid lane splitting next to large vehicles
- Avoid remaining in the blind spots of other vehicles
These guidelines also provide a friendly reminder to all vehicle drivers that lane splitting is legal and that intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could harm the rider is illegal.
"These guidelines will provide clear direction to both drivers and motorcyclists on how lane splitting should be done safely. This will lead to fewer accidents and improve roadway safety," said Assemblyman Lackey.
“It’s gratifying to see my work on lane splitting come full circle. It also speaks to how important it was for the state to have clarity on the subject and I appreciate the CHP’s effort in prioritizing this work. I further commend them for working with a varied group of stakeholders to come up with these guidelines that will help our roads be safer and educate all of us on what it means to safely lane split,” concluded Assemblymember Quirk.