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Is Lane-Splitting Legal for San Diego Motorcycles?

Lane-splitting, or riding a motorcycle between two rows of vehicles, is legal in San Diego and throughout California. In fact, California is the only US state (so far) that has expressly legalized this practice. But while lane-splitting is allowed under state law, doing it could have important implications, especially in an accident. Here’s a closer look at the legality of lane-splitting in California. If you need legal advice after an accident, please reach out to our experienced injury attorney. Oh, by the way, we ride.

What is Lane-Splitting?

Lane-splitting means driving a motorcycle between rows of vehicles in the same lane on a street, road, or highway, whether those vehicles are moving or stopped, and whether or not the lane has dividing marks. This definition appears in California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1.

You will usually see this practice when traffic has slowed or stopped, as motorcyclists ride in the narrow space between cars to move forward in the lane.

Lane-splitting is highly debated. Some believe it increases the likelihood of crashes as vehicles get too close to each other, impeding visibility of surroundings and reducing drivers’ reaction times. But there has also been evidence that lane-splitting makes roads safer. One study, for instance, found that lane-splitting at lower speeds reduced the likelihood of motorcycles getting rear-ended and of motorcyclists sustaining certain injuries.

Does California Allow Lane-Splitting?

Yes, California allows lane-splitting. In 2016, the state became the only one in the US to adopt a law that officially legalized this practice. However, motorcyclists must follow California Highway Patrol (CHP) guidelines when lane-splitting:

  • Only lane-split if the flow of traffic is 30 mph or less.
  • The speed of the lane-splitting motorcycle must not be 10 mph faster than that of surrounding traffic.
  • Riding on the road shoulder is not allowed. (This practice is not considered lane-splitting.)
  • Lane-splitting between semi-trucks, buses, or RVs is not allowed.
  • Lane-splitting at curves is not allowed.
  • Lane-splitting near on-ramps or freeway exits is not allowed.

While stripe-riding is legal in California, a traffic officer has the discretion to ticket a motorcyclist who may be driving recklessly.

On the other hand, the CHP also reminds car drivers not to impede motorcyclists who lane-split. Intentionally blocking a motorcycle – such as by opening a car door in front of it – is illegal in California.

Who is Liable in a Lane-Splitting Accident in California?

Because California is a “fault-based” state, the person who is at fault for a road accident will be liable to pay for resulting injuries. Normally, if a motorist has violated traffic law, they’ll be found inherently negligent and thus at fault in the crash. But since lane-splitting is not a violation in California, it cannot automatically be assumed that a lane-splitting motorcyclist is at fault in their accident.

To determine fault, we have to investigate how the accident occurred and what each involved person was doing leading up to it. Consider these examples:

  • If a motorcyclist lane-splits at 45 mph, they may be found reckless and thus liable for the resulting accident.
  • If a car driver blocks a lane-splitting biker out of road rage or driver envy, the car driver may be guilty of violating California law and thus at fault in the ensuing crash.

It’s worth noting that California follows the comparative negligence rule, which means liability could be shared by everyone who contributed some fault in the crash. For example, it could be found that a motorcyclist is 60 percent at fault and a car driver is 40 percent at fault for the same accident.

We at the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers are highly experienced in motorcycle crash assessments and injury claims. We work tenaciously on behalf of our injured clients, whether they’re car drivers, motorcyclists, or passengers. Our San Diego-based firm has access to important resources to build an effective case, often including witness statements, driving records, CCTV footage, and other forms of evidence.

Frequently Asked Questions on California Lane-Splitting Rules

Is there a speed limit for lane-splitting in California?

No, there is no speed limit specifically for California lane-splitting, though there is a caveat. Lane-splitting bikers must observe California Highway Patrol’s “guidelines,” mainly that you cannot lane-split if traffic is moving above 30 mph and you must not be 10 mph faster than surrounding vehicles. Such actions could be considered reckless driving.

Can you lane-split if the road has a line?

Yes, you may “ride the dotted line” in California as long as it’s on the same lane. California Vehicle Code specifies that lane-splitting may be on divided or undivided lanes.

Will insurance pay for lane-splitting accidents?

Yes, California accident insurance should generally pay the normal way even if lane-splitting is involved, as this practice is legal in the state. The accident compensation process in California starts with a claim against the insurance of the at-fault person, whether that person is a car driver, a motorcyclist, or any other negligent party. However, determining who is at fault is often challenging and requires the know-how of an experienced accident lawyer.

Contact Our San Diego County Personal Injury Attorney

Rated number 1 by various legal bodies, the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers is the go-to law firm for many Southern Californians who have been injured in a crash. Our firm has obtained over $100 million for our clients, including motorcycle accident settlements and verdicts. From intersection collisions to rear-ending to “dooring” crashes, we’ve successfully handled complex bike cases – and are eager to listen to yours.

Talk to us about your motorcycle accident. Your consultation is free. Call Hamparyan today at (619) 550-1355.


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