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University study supports motorcycle lane-splitting in California

A would-be law in California that is focused upon so-called "lane-splitting" is weaving its way through the state legislature at the same time that many thousands of motorcyclists routinely weave their way through traffic on the state's roads and freeway systems.

As noted in a recent media article, lane-splitting is a big deal and a hot-button topic for state lawmakers these days, with California being "the only state in the country where motorcycle lane-splitting is not illegal."

Although many drivers of passenger vehicles might grouse that the practice is dangerous, evidence has emerged to support precisely the opposite conclusion.

In fact, notes a study authored by researchers at UC-Berkeley, lane-splitting -- when done responsibly and pursuant to a few recommended guidelines -- might actually promote roadway safety and reduce accidents across the state.

Of course, few people, motorcyclists included, would argue that safety is enhanced when a biker squeezes between passenger vehicles in adjacent lanes at a high speed, especially when that speed exceeds that of the other vehicles to a substantial degree.

What Berkeley researchers contend, though, is that lane-splitting is relatively safe when surrounding traffic is moving at a speed of 50 miles per hour or less and when bikers are passing at a speed that does not exceed other affected vehicles by more than 15 mph.

In other words, it's about showing some restraint, with the study's lead author noting that a 15 mph-plus differential increases injury risks "significantly."

The Berkeley study is influencing the particulars of the bill that it is now moving closer toward passage. If the legislation is enacted into law, notes the above author, it will have an additional salutary benefit of bringing a "heightened awareness among motorists about motorcycle lane-splitting."

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