Traffic School Teacher Answers Question on Motorcycle Driving and Lane Splitting in California

Q: I always see motorcycles weaving in and out of lanes in-between cars on the freeway. It seems to me that I’ve never seen anyone getting a citation for this, nor have I heard that they were sent to traffic school for this offense. Is this really legal?

A: This is called ‘splitting the lanes’ and it is legal for motorcyclists in the state of California.

The sole comprehensive study completed to date on motorcycle safety, interestingly enough named the “Hurt Report”, indicates that motorcycle riding between lanes tends to be slightly safer for a rider than if they were subjected to frequent stops along with the rest of the driving population.

In addition, many older, air-cooled motorcycles find that lane-splitting is necessary in order to keep bikes moving in blistering climates to avoid overheating.

Also, motorcyclists justifiably point out that lane-splitting is a way for motorcycle riders to save time and it can be seen as a possible aid in reducing overall traffic congestion.

Regardless, the practice of lane-splitting only remains legal in one state - California. 

The true dangers to motorcyclists are the complacent and distracted drivers on the road who do not look for motorcycles, and therefore do not tend to see them - until it is too late.

When discussing the possible perils of motorcycle riding in my traffic school class one day, I mentioned jokingly that I had heard motorcycles referred to on the television show E.R. as “donorcycles”.

At that point a rather burly-looking man spoke up.

“Hey! I’ve been riding a bike for 20 years and I don’t appreciate that comment!”

I immediately apologized to the man saying that I meant no offense to him or to motorcycle riders in general. I added that he was very fortunate that he had been riding so long and had never been injured.

He quickly responded, “Well, I didn’t say that.” He proceeded to touch his head, elbow and knee as he said, “I have a plate right here and a pin right here and I’ve had this replaced twice….”

Needless to say, that quickly ended the discussion on motorcycle riding in traffic school class for that day.

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