You may remember late last year that the University of California Berkeley (in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol) released their initial findings on a study focusing on the motorcycle lane splitting in California – the first study ever to look at the practice properly. Those initial findings supported what most motorcyclists knew all along – that lane splitting is a safer practice than not doing so.
Now the full and final study has been released, going into more detail and depth on their findings. The study found that 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. Lanesplitting 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
Perhaps stating the obvious, but the study also found that lane-splitting appeared 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 lanesplit.
But perhaps the most interesting finding is that most motorcycle riders ‘self-police’ their splitting habits, so to speak. Only a small fraction of riders in California lane split at high speed. Most take the sensible approach and only split in ‘start-stop’ traffic or when other cars are travelling at or below 40MPH.
You can read the full report here. Interestingly, it appears that California could soon legalize motorcycle lane-splitting. That may seem strange to hear given that it was the CHP initiating this study, but currently lane-splitting is neither legal nor illegal in California. This new law would provide clarity to riders but also make it clear to car drivers that what motorcyclists are doing is not only for our own safety, but okay in the eyes of the law.