Lane splitting can look dangerous to those not on a motorcycle—and it can in fact be very dangerous if a rider isn’t that experienced yet. While those inside cars may hate seeing motorbikes zoom past them on a two-lane highway, there will always be the debate about whether or not lane splitting is legal in the United States.
In short, in some states, you can lane split. Although it may be legal in some states, remember, it doesn’t matter what bike you’re riding; if you lane split incorrectly, then you can cause massive damage and accidents on the road! For beginners looking to learn more about lane splitting, here is a short guide on the topic.
What Exactly is Lane Splitting?
In a two-lane road, with cars traveling in the same direction on both, motorcycle riders will often ride between the lanes, doing what is called a “stripe ride.” This is usually done when traffic starts to slow down or when a stoplight is coming up for riders to filter to the front.
Many car drivers hate seeing this style of driving being done. To shed more clarity on the topic, here is more information about lane splitting.
Why Motorcyclists Split Lanes
Two reasons are involved in motorcyclists splitting lanes, namely: speed and safety. A motorcycle, in general, is smaller and takes up less space on the road—meaning they can move through traffic quickly. This is better than a motorcycle taking up a whole car’s space, as they can occupy spaces between cars instead of blocking off a whole car’s length of the road.
Additionally, knowing how many accidents have resulted in fatalities because of larger vehicles ramming motorcycles is why riders prefer to stay at the side of car lanes. A common scenario for accidents is being rear-ended due to distractions when traffic comes to a stop. Motorcycle riders are at the most risk for serious injuries and death when it comes to getting rear-ended, as there are minimal safety features on their vehicle—even on the best motorcycles of 2020!
Experts believe that lane splitting is the best safety technique to prevent horrible accidents involving motorcycle riders and other larger vehicles. Being between cars is better than being sandwiched between a car in front and a car rear-ending a motorcycle. It has also been found in a study by UC Berkeley that riders who lane split are less likely to be rear-ended compared to those who do not lane split.
Is It Legal, Though?
In California, it is explicitly stated in the road laws that lane splitting is legal to do by riders—and is the only state that has made it clear. Utah, on the other hand, allows it when traffic is stopped, which is called “filtering,” wherein the rider filters to the front of the traffic jam with care. The rest of the states have no clear ruling on the matter or have simply banned it outright—except for the case of Washington and Oregon, both of which are still considering its legalization as of writing.”
The best way to know is to ask your local state government regarding the specifics of lane splitting and motorcycle riding.
For Beginner Motorcycle Riders, Here Are Some Tips
Provided that lane splitting is legal in your state, or if there are no laws prohibiting it, here are tips for beginner riders to safely lane split:
- Keep It Slow and Steady
The faster you split, the more dangerous the action becomes! As such, keep the speed slow enough to get used to filtering between cars to avoid accidents or snagging other vehicles.
- Monitor Your Surroundings
Try not to split when in pedestrian-dense zones. Instead, monitor the status of the road around you, don’t split on wet roads, and check for anyone who may possibly open their doors.
- Try to Split on the Left Lanes
Left lanes are safer to split on in left-hand drive countries, as the steering wheel is on the left side of the car—which therefore offers drivers better visibility of you.
- Don’t Try to Split Past Larger Vehicles
Larger trucks, such as 18-wheelers and motorhomes, can be dangerous to split past, mainly because these have larger blind spots. Be aware of their presence at all times.
When it comes to beginner motorcycle riding, the best bet is to stay safe and take it slow—whether you are lane splitting or just riding. Always check the local road laws of your area to determine if splitting is legal or not, as opinions are always below what the law says!
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