For years, motorcyclists across the Golden State have enjoyed the quasi-legal right to split lanes along busy highways and crowded streets. While never truly legal, the practice was also not strictly enforced by police. This has led to what many law enforcement officials consider “limited anarchy,” in terms of safe driving. However, a new bill being introduced to the state legislature may change all that. As reported by KCET, Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) aims to legalize, regulate and enforce lane-splitting behaviors by motorcyclists. Conceived by Assembly Member Bill Quirk, AB 51 will be up for vote later this year, and if passed, will be the only one of its kind nationwide.
Up until this past year, both the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Highway Patrol outlined lane-splitting guidelines in their various manuals and websites. Following a number of complaints, the information was removed, which prompted Mr. Quirk to draft AB 51. “There are many motorcyclists who lane split only in slow traffic conditions,” said Quirk, “However, many disregard speed limits and road conditions and lane split at unsafe speeds.” The new law would allow motorcyclists to split lanes only when traffic has slowed to 10mph or less and only at speeds at 30mph or less. These speeds and conditions are the same as those originally outlined by the CHP and DMV.
However, many motorcycle enthusiasts and legal analysts see trouble with such lawmaking. First, it will be difficult to enforce such laws given that motorcycles are already maneuvering through traffic in such a way to make them almost inaccessible by police. Secondly, many argue that the law will restrict motorcycle operator’s ability to react quickly to avoid an accident. While it remains to be seen what affect the bill will have on the practice, many law enforcement officials see it as a “common sense” approach that most motorcyclists already follow.
If you have any questions concerning motorcycle laws in the state of California or if you’ve been involved in an accident with a motorcyclist attempting to lane split, don’t hesitate to contact the Los Angeles office of Kahn Roven to schedule an appointment. The number to call is (213) 738-0708.