California is actually the only state where lane splitting is legal, at least without restrictions. Other states, such as Utah and Montana, have laws that allow lane-splitting but refer to it as “lane filtering,” which is only legal under certain, highly restricted conditions.
Section 21658.1(a) of the California Vehicle Code defines lane splitting as the following:
“21658.1 (a) For the purposes of this section, “lane splitting” means driving a motorcycle, as defined in Section 400, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
In other words, lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist passes a vehicle by using the area between two lanes.
Lane splitting is legal in California because the state recognizes it as a tool to decrease traffic congestion. Since the volume of freeway traffic in California is higher than in most other states, strategies are necessary to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Lane splitting allows motorcycles to occupy space on the highway that isn’t being used by vehicles.
There are arguments for both sides, with some saying there is a higher risk of an accident when lane splitting and others that state it is safer for motorcyclists. The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at UC Berkeley conducted a study in 2015 and found that only 17-percent of motorcycle crashes between 2012 and 2013 involved lane splitting. Therefore, it does not seem to increase accidents. However, the risk of a collision occurring while lane splitting increases the faster a rider travels. Additionally, there is a higher risk of a lane splitting accident if drivers are not paying attention, do not check for riders before changing lanes, or get rattled by how loud a motorcycle is passing them.
To avoid a lane splitting accident, there are safety tips that both motorcyclists and drivers can follow: