California Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Law

March 1, 2024 Personal injury

Visitors who are new to California often find themselves taken aback in traffic when a motorcycle suddenly approaches between lanes and passes them. Even California residents don’t always react favorably to a motorcyclist who seemingly weaves between lanes to get ahead of slowed or stopped traffic. But is this practice unsafe or illegal? The answer is no, not in California. California is the only U.S. state to legalize lane splitting. Most traffic experts agree that this practice reduces the chances of a deadly motorcycle accident by eliminating the risk of a tailgating accident between motorcycles and vehicles in congested traffic situations. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, it’s crucial to consider speaking to an Encino motorcycle accident lawyer for expert legal advice and guidance.

motorcycle riding

California’s Lane-Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is also known as lane filtering or lane sharing. California codified it into law in 2017 through California Vehicle Code 21658.1 VC. which defines the practice as the following:

“lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”

California motorcycle lane-splitting laws include the following important guidelines for both riders and motorists:

  • Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes of traffic by riding on or near the white lines dividing lanes
  • Motorcyclists may only lane split when traffic is moving at 40 miles per hour or less
  • Motorcyclists may only exceed the general speed of moving traffic by a maximum of 10 miles per hour
  • Motorcyclists should not split lanes in poor lighting conditions, bad weather, or bad road conditions
  • On multiple-lane highways, riders should split lanes in the far left lane as opposed to other lanes
  • Motorcyclists may not ride on the shoulder of the road
  • Motorcyclists may not weave dangerously back and forth between multiple lanes or into carpool lanes
  • Motorcyclists may only share a lane on either side of a line of traffic and cross only on a broken line signaling an exit or entry point
  • Drivers may not harass or interfere with lane-splitting motorcyclists in any way

The guidelines for lane-splitting remain open to wide interpretation, and law enforcement officers use their discretion when enforcing the lane-splitting laws.

How Do Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Laws Improve Traffic Flow and Safety?

California is notorious for its congested traffic conditions. The state’s Department of Transportation reviewed an overview report of several studies showing that lane splitting improves safety for motorcyclists and aids in better traffic flow. When lane-splitting was illegal in California and traffic was slowed due to congestion, a vulnerable motorcyclist remained trapped between two larger vehicles. When traffic congestion causes stop-and-go driving, motorcyclists face a substantial risk of rear-end accidents essentially crushing them between two vehicles. Allowing a motorcyclist to avoid being sandwiched between cars by lane splitting, or filtering to the head of the line and out of congested areas, reduces the risk of an accident. It also lowers the overall number of vehicles trapped in traffic and aids in faster traffic flow.

While California remains the only state with legalized lane-splitting, the issue is under debate in several other states. Many motorcyclists consider some regions in other states as “lane-splitting friendly” by default because there are no explicit laws against the practice and law enforcement in these areas choose not to stop motorcyclists who engage in lane-splitting.

Free Consultation

  • Fields required *
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.