In spite of continuing safety debates, there is vigorous renewed interest concerning motorcycle lane splitting in states other than California, which currently is the only state where the practice is legal. Other states including Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington are considering legalizing lane splitting, where bikers are allowed to travel between lanes of cars in slow or stalled traffic.
Recently, researchers have confirmed what bikers have known for decades that the practice of splitting lanes is considerably safer than waiting in traffic like passenger vehicles. However, serious concerns of safety abound because many motorists see the practice of splitting lanes as unsafeor recognize it as “queue jumping.”
Many officials are concerned that legalizing the practice would create a more dangerous environment during times of heavy traffic, and anger motorists who believe all bikers need to wait their turn in congested traffic just like everyone else. However, many motorcyclists are pushing back, indicating that lane splitting is actually safer for bikers because it reduces the potential of being involved in a rear end accident while stalled in place in stopped traffic.
Lane Splitting Safety Benefits
One critical argument that lane splitting opponents use is that the practice is dangerous to everyone sharing the roadway. However, from the motorcyclist’s standpoint, this perspective is simply not true. Statistics maintained by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) indicate that rear end collisions involving motorcycles is significantly higher in heavily congested traffic when passenger vehicles are stalled in their lane. In fact, 40 percent of all automobile accidents nationwide involve rear enders, which could be avoided if the motorcyclists continue to move between traffic lanes.
While most of these accidents in congested traffic result in minor fender benders, the outcome is often catastrophic if a vehicle crashes into the back of a standing motorcycle, even at slow speeds. Alternatively, bikers can avoid these problems that often involve driver inattention when traffic is slowed or stopped by splitting lanes and moving through problem areas.
Many drivers believe that splitting lanes provides an unfair advantage. However, when motorcycles are allowed to filter their way through stalled traffic, every motorist sharing the roadway benefits because the practice decreases their time to complete the journey by minimizing the amount of traffic in the lanes. Drivers would lose this benefit if bikers ignored the inherent benefit of using the narrow pathway and instead sat in traffic like cars
Does Lane Splitting Increase Serious Injury Statistics?
Lane splitting opponents indicate that most slow-moving motorcycle accidents occur because the biker was splitting lanes. However, a California Office to Traffic Safety report released by the University of Berkeley with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol examined more than 7800 motorcycle crashes in the state. Researchers concluded that less than 1200 of the accidents involved the practice of splitting lanes.
Additionally, the study showed that bikers involved in a lane splitting accident had a significantly lower chance of being injured at all when compared to the other motorcycle riding accidents. The reduced possibility of serious injuries when involved in a lane splitting accident include a:
- 55 percent reduction in the number of fatalities,
- 45 percent reduction of having a head injury,
- 32 percent reduction of having a torso injury,
- 21 percent reduction of having a neck injury and
- 12 percent reduction in leg and arm injuries
Many researchers believe that the reduction of serious injuries caused by lane splitting accidents is because most occur when the biker is traveling slowly between one and 30 miles an hour
For the biker, splitting lanes at a reduced speed – 30 miles per hour or less – that is no more than 10 miles an hour faster than surrounding traffic appears to be the safest way to split lanes. This is because the number of serious injuries leap exponentially when bikers violate both of these lane splitting conditions.
Because of the renewed interest in understanding the benefits of lane splitting and how it is a win-win for all commuters, there may be states other than California making the practice legal for all bikers. In addition to saving the rider both money and time, statistics prove that it also increases the safety of everyone sharing the road.