Empirical evidence backs motorcycle lane-splitting

Although it might be a bit cumbersome, motorcyclists throughout Los Angeles County and Southern California might want to consider toting a copy of a UC-Berkeley study on motorcycle safety as they traverse area roads and freeways.

And they might want to resolutely stick it in the hands of the next irate motorist that yells at them in traffic, alleging that they are engaging in risky behavior by passing between vehicles.

The so-called practice of lane-splitting is a definite line divider, with critics and adherents seemingly defined in virtually every instance by their identity as passenger-vehicle operators or motorcyclists, respectively.

Is lane-splitting a dangerous activity? Or, conversely, it is a safety-enhancing driving maneuver necessarily engaged in by bikers to reduce the fallout in car/motorcycle accidents?

It is a flat given that bikers almost always lose in such encounters. Indeed, the adverse consequences resulting from motorcycle accidents, which often stem from third-party negligence, encompass a horrific variety of potentialities. Those range from serious head trauma and spinal cord injuries to fractured body parts and paralysis Wrongful death, too, is a sadly recurring outcome when a passenger vehicle strikes a motorcycle.

The Berkeley study concludes that, within specified speed limits, lane-splitting enhances on-the-road safety for California motorcyclists. The university research played into the recent passage of a bill legalizing the practice through the California Assembly. The next stop is the state Senate.

A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times also endorses legal codification of the practice, with the Times stating that enacting the bill into law “makes more sense than continued confusion.”

Importantly, too, of course (and given the UC-Berkeley conclusions), passage of the legislation could save motorcyclists’ lives and reduce the number of catastrophic injuries that this driving group suffers in comparatively high numbers.

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