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Lane-Splitting Bill Stalls in California Legislature

California is currently the only U.S. state to allow lane-splitting, which is when a motorcyclist drives between two lanes of traffic. This is not because there is a law allowing lane-splitting, but because there is no law making it illegal. A bill that would permit and regulate lane-splitting in California passed the California State Assembly earlier this year, but it appears that a Senate vote on the measure will be forced to wait until next year.

The Bill

Assembly Bill 51 would allow a motorcycle to drive between two lanes of stopped or moving traffic, on both divided and undivided streets. Both wheels of the motorcycle must be in contact with the ground at all times, and the motorcycle must not travel more than 15 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic. Furthermore, the motorcycle must not be driven in excess of 50 miles per hour. This means that if traffic is moving at 50 miles per hour or faster, lane-splitting would not be allowed at all. The motorcyclist would still be required to follow all other traffic safety laws. Despite continued debate in the Senate Committee for Transportation and Housing, the bill has been tabled for this session and may be picked up again in 2016.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, who co-authored the bill, says that his goal is to promote safety. Most motorcyclists in California report that they lane-split, and if the practice were simply made illegal, it would be very difficult to prosecute violators. Quirk says that the bill would cut down on dangerous lane-splitting, but help motorcyclists avoid getting rear-ended in traffic. He plans to resurrect the bill next year during the second half of the state legislature's two-year session.

Personal Injury Consequences

If the lane-splitting bill passes and becomes law, there could be significant personal injury consequences. On one hand, the bill could help to increase safety for motorcyclists. Motorcycles are smaller than cars, and sometimes not noticed. The bill could potentially help them avoid getting rear-ended in tight traffic.

However, if bikers dart out unexpectedly into the path of a car changing lanes, it could be disastrous. In the event of an accident, motorcycle riders have less protection than other motorists. The injuries they suffer are usually more serious than those suffered by automobile drivers.

The lane-splitting law could also have consequences for car drivers. Lane-splitting involves driving very close to other cars, which means a greater chance of sideswiping another motorist. This can cause injuries to both the biker and the driver in the lane. If another motorist is sideswiped by a lane-splitting motorcyclist, it is difficult to read the smaller license plates, and easy for the biker to flee between lanes and escape accountability.

Motorcycle accidents, which can already be more dangerous because of the vulnerable nature of motorcycles, are made even more risky by engaging in practices such as lane-splitting. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, please contact the experienced San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation at (408) 289-1417.

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