Lane splitting- yes or no?
That is a tough question but if you depend on statistics for your answer, then the answer is a resounding “YES” based on the recent study published by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California at Berkeley. The Motorcycle Industry Council supports lane splitting with reasonable restrictions and by experienced riders and The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) endorses lane splitting as well but is very cautious in saying so.
The Berkeley study involved 5,969 motorcyclists that were involved in accidents over a one year period. Some of the results are as followed:
- “Motorcyclists who were lane-splitting were notably different from those that were not lane-splitting. Compared with other motorcyclists, lane-splitting motorcyclists were more often riding on weekdays and during commute hours, were using better helmets, and were traveling at lower speeds.”
- “Lane-splitting riders were also less likely to have been using alcohol and less likely to have been carrying a passenger.”
- “Lane-splitting motorcyclists were also injured much less frequently during their collisions.”
- “Lane splitting riders were less likely to suffer head injury (9% vs 17%), torso injury (19% vs 29%), extremity injury (60% vs 66%), and fatal injury (1.2% vs 3.0%). Lane-splitting motorcyclists were equally likely to suffer neck injury, compared with non-lane-splitting motorcyclists.”
- “Traffic speed and motorcycle speed differential (the difference between motorcycle speed and traffic speed) were important in predicting the occurrence of injury.”
- “There was no meaningful increase in injury incidence until traffic speed exceeded roughly 50 MPH. Motorcycle speed differential was a stronger predictor of injury outcomes.”
- “Lane-splitting appears to be a relatively safe motorcycle riding strategy if done in traffic moving at 50 MPH or less and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 MPH. A significant number of motorcyclists lane-split in fast-moving traffic or at excessive speed differentials. These riders could lower their risk of injury by restricting the environments in which they lane-split and by reducing their speed differential when they do choose to lane split.”
- “The findings from this analysis suggest that countermeasures to alter the way motorcyclists lane-split are likely to result in reductions in injury. Many motorcyclists may not understand how lane-splitting at excessive traffic speed creates unnecessary risk.”
- “It is in high-speed environments where lane-splitting has the lowest benefit to the motorcyclist, and high-speed lane-splitting could be reduced or eliminated from California roadways without significant loss of the overall potential benefits of lane-splitting, which include reductions in fuel consumption, emissions, and traffic congestion.”
- “Riders may also be unaware that the speed differential at which they lane-split is highly predictive of injury occurrence. There has been considerable discussion in the motorcycling community that lane-splitting should be done only at lower speed differentials.”
- “Our findings suggest that riders who adopt a 10 or 15 MPH speed differential practice may reduce their exposure to injury risk.”
Per the Report, future studies will be conducted and like all good studies, the authors point out the short-comings in their data. As to whether to enact lane-splitting legislation or not, here is my opinion.
Lane splitting has always been controversial, even among motorcycle riders. Type up “lane splitting yes or no” as your Facebook status and see what happens. However, everything new or unknown is controversial at first.
Motorcycle sales and the amount of motorcycle riders have increased drastically, especially with female riders. Whether due to a bad economy and people looking for cheaper alternative methods of travel or because more people think riding is fun and cool, is not relevant.
What is relevant is that there are more motorcycle riders on the road than ever. It is the government’s job to protect its citizens and thus, more lane splitting studies should be conducted.
Texting laws have been ineffective in curbing behavior. In Florida, one of the last states to enact legislation, texting is a secondary offense, meaning you have to be committing another traffic infraction before a police officer can cite you. If anti-texting laws haven’t made the roads any safer, then we need to keep looking for other solutions.
With all the distractions that exists in today’s society, we need to adapt. Staying static and keeping things the way they are will not work. If lives can be saved from lane splitting, then it should be looked into. Unfortunately, in government, “no-brainers” usually leaves you scratching your head and wondering why hasn’t anything been done.
Other countries have enacted lane-splitting laws and other states are beginning to make the push. Luckily for us, as it is said in politics; “as goes California, so does the rest of the country.”
Laws do not have to be enacted overnight; start with a trial period. In congested cities, try lane-splitting during “rush hour.” Limit the speed at which lane splitting takes place, for example, at 10-20 miles per hour. See what the results are and take it from there.
Success in just about all that we try requires constant modifications and repeatedly going to the drawing board. Apply the same common sense principles of business to government (I know I am asking for a lot with that statement) and constantly look for ways to improve. The mere fact that lives are on the line warrants studies at the state and federal level.
In the meantime, stay safe and practice to be the best motorcycle rider you can be.