Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 51 into law recently, making California the first state to legally recognize lane splitting, the practice in which motorcyclists ride between lanes of traffic.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblymembers Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Tom Lackey (R- Palmdale), grants the California Highway Patrol the authority to develop and issue lane-splitting guidelines in consultation with motorcycle safety groups and riders.
“This is great news for motorcyclists in California and throughout the country,” said Rob Dingman, president and CEO of the American Motorcyclist Association. “The California Assembly and the governor have taken a huge step in formally recognizing a practice that has been in use for decades.
“Lane splitting keeps riders safer by eliminating their exposure to rear-end collisions, and it helps ease congestion by effectively removing motorcycles from the traffic lanes.”
Studies by the University of California at Berkeley show that splitting lanes is a relatively safe maneuver when both the motorcyclist and nearby drivers know the law and adhere to safe and prudent driving practices.
In 2012, the CHP developed guidelines for splitting lanes, posting them online in 2013 and including them in the Motorcycle Handbook distributed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, a citizen complained in 2014 that the guidelines were “underground regulations” put together by a state agency, rather than the legislature. So the CHP and DMV removed them.
A.B. 51 clarifies that the CHP does have authority to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting. The law also removes the practice from the legal gray area, where it was neither expressly prohibited nor approved.
Several other states, including Nevada, Georgia, Washington, Oregon and Texas, have considered legislation during the past two years that would have made lane splitting legal, with certain restrictions.
“We hope that other states will follow California’s lead on this issue,” Dingman said. “The AMA is here to support individuals, groups and legislators who want lane splitting made legal in their states, too.”