Responsible drivers are careful and conscientious when they’re sharing the road with motorcyclists. They know that bikers are more vulnerable in a collision than those in vehicles are. Nonetheless, motorcyclists can be negligent or reckless, just like anyone else, and sometimes they are solely or primarily responsible for crashes.
Here in California, drivers have an even more challenging time staying out of the way of motorcyclists. That’s because we’re in the only state where lane splitting is legal. This practice is defined in the law as “driving a motorcycle…between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane…on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
Why can lane splitting by motorcyclists cause drivers to crash?
While lane splitting isn’t prohibited under the law, it must be done safely and only under the right conditions. For example, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) cautions that the “risk of death or serious injury during a lane splitting collision increases as speed and speed differential increases.”
The option for motorcyclists to weave in and out of lanes can actually help stop-and-go (or just stopped) traffic move a little more quickly for everyone. However, it may not seem like it for a driver who sees a biker come from behind them and end up far ahead.
Lane-splitting bikers can easily come from seemingly nowhere and catch drivers by surprise – even drivers who are checking their blind spots before changing lanes. A motorcyclist who suddenly ends up directly in front of a driver may not give that driver enough time to stop and avoid hitting them. A driver may even be so startled by a lane-splitting biker that they swerve into another lane or off the road and hit another car, a guardrail or even someone on a bicycle.
If you’re a driver or passenger who was injured in a crash caused by an at-fault motorcyclist, it’s crucial to ensure that the full facts of the crash are determined so that you can seek the compensation to which you’re entitled for medical bills and other financial losses and damages. It’s wise to seek legal guidance before you agree to any settlement.