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Are you ready for lane-splitting?

For thousands of Californians, the only way to get from Point A to Point B is by motorcycle. Indeed, their preference for this form of two-wheeled transportation comes not only from reduced gas costs, but also easier parking and a smaller carbon footprint.

Interestingly enough, going by motorcycle will soon provide another significant advantage thanks to a contentious measure scheduled to take effect very soon here in the Golden State: lane-splitting.

What exactly is lane-splitting?   

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, lane-splitting — sometimes referred to as lane-sharing — involves motorcyclists traveling between lanes of stopped or slowed traffic on highways and freeways.

California will become the first state in the nation to authorize this practice on January 1, shifting away from the longstanding legal limbo in which lane-splitting was deemed neither legal nor illegal.

What sort of parameters does the law authorizing lane-splitting establish?

Curiously, the new law provides relatively little in the way of guidance. While the initial draft called for lane-splitting to be authorized only where the motorcyclist is traveling less than 15 miles-per-hour faster than surrounding traffic and for lane-splitting speeds to never exceed 50 miles-per-hour, this language was ultimately scrapped.

Indeed, the task of drafting formal rules was left to the California Highway Patrol, which has yet to issue any sort of announcement.

Why did lawmakers legalize lane-splitting?

The decision to legalize lane-splitting was based in large part on a 2014 study undertaken by researchers at UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research & Education Center, which essentially found that motorcyclists were actually safer lane-splitting than sitting idle on highways and freeways.

Indeed, these experts found that the overall risk of being sideswiped while lane-splitting was actually less than the risk of being rear-ended, a type of collision that can prove to be especially devastating for motorcyclists.

It will be fascinating to see how motorcyclists and motorists alike react to this new law. Here’s hoping it makes a real difference in reducing the number of collisions.

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident caused by the reckless actions of a motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice.