One of the more annoying things about driving is that commuter feeling when you are stopped in grid-lock traffic and you hear the hum of a motor drawing closer, you check your rearview mirror and there it is: a happy-go-lucky motorcyclist cruising through traffic as all the other passenger cars are at a stand-still. This motorcyclist is using a technique called lane splitting; riding a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways. And as annoying as it may seem, lane splitting is completely legal in states like California…
California is a motorcycle friendly state, and other than lane splitting (which became legal in September 2017), motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as automobile drivers. Drivers of passenger vehicles are required to share the road with motorcycles. While there are perks to driving a motorcycle like getting to cruise through rush hour traffic and getting better gas mileage, there are real downfalls when it comes to safety for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists face unusual dangers because they are hard to see, and the motorcycle requires exceptional handling ability. Many motorcycles are operated with the headlight on, even during daylight hours, to increase their visibility. If you ride a motorcycle be sure to wear protective clothing at all times, including a helmet. It could save your life.
Here are some helpful tips for motorists regarding sharing the road with motorcycle riders:
- As a driver, never attempt to share the lane with a motorcycle. They may initiate the lane split, but you should never force them to share. The motorcyclist is entitled to the entire lane.
- Watch for motorcycles and look carefully before pulling into an intersection or changing lanes.
- It is difficult to gauge the speed of a motorcycle because they take up less field of vision which interferes with depth perception. They may appear to be much farther away than they really are.
- Do not follow too closely behind a motorcycle. Remember that motorcycles have the ability to stop more quickly than other vehicles.
- Motorcyclists often slow down by downshifting or rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light.
- Never pass a motorcyclist with only a few feet of space. The force of the wind gust can cause the rider to lose control.
- When your vehicle is being passed by a motorcycle, maintain your lane position. Do not increase your speed.
If you or someone you know has been cited for a traffic infraction regarding motorcycle interaction, they may be able to get their fine reduced by taking traffic school. If you are eligible to take a driver improvement course for your traffic citation, we highly recommend Cheap Easy Fast Online Defensive Driving. The course is entirely free to try, and it’s approved by all California courts. They also operate online and video courses in other states. Check their website to see if your state is included. Until next time, keep your eyes on the road!