Is Lane Splitting Legal in California?

motorcyclist splitting lanes in traffic congestion

What is Considered Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting, also known as lane sharing, stripe-riding, or white-lining, is a practice where a motorcycle rider navigates through slow-moving or stationary traffic by riding between lanes. Motorcyclists typically split lanes when traffic is slow-moving or at a standstill. It is important to note that lane splitting is different from reckless or aggressive riding. 

When a motorcycle navigates between lanes, the rider must consider the speed of surrounding vehicles, the width of the lanes, and other relevant factors. California is one of the only states that permit lane splitting. However, riders must carefully assess the traffic conditions and maintain a reasonable speed compared to the surrounding vehicles.


California Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws

The California Vehicle Code does not explicitly prohibit lane splitting, but it does require that it be done safely. Key points regarding California’s motorcycle lane splitting laws include the following:

  • California law does not explicitly prohibit lane splitting, but motorcyclists must exercise caution and make reasonable decisions when lane splitting.
  • Riding at excessive speeds or in an aggressive manner can lead to legal consequences.
  • Motorcyclists must gauge the available space and surrounding traffic conditions.


Are There California Lane Splitting Speed Limits?

California does not specify a particular speed limit for lane splitting. However, lane splitting may be performed at a speed that is safe for the given conditions. Motorcyclists are expected to use their judgment and consider factors such as the flow of traffic, weather conditions, and the width of the lanes.

While there is no set speed limit for lane splitting, riding at excessive speed is very dangerous. Motorcyclists should maintain a speed that allows them to react to potential hazards on the road.


Is Lane Splitting Dangerous or Safe?

motorcyclist splitting lanes

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, lane splitting riders were less likely to suffer a head injury compared with non-lane splitting motorcycle riders (9% versus 17%). The American Motorcycle Association endorses lane splitting as a safe practice. Lane splitting supporters claim that splitting lanes has advantages including the following:

Reduced traffic congestion: Lane splitting allows motorcyclists to navigate through slow-moving or congested traffic, reducing overall traffic and road accidents.

Decreased risk of rear-end collisions: Motorcyclists are vulnerable to rear-end collisions when traffic is moving slowly or stopped. Lane splitting can help decrease this risk by allowing motorcyclists to move ahead of the traffic queue, reducing the likelihood of being struck from behind.

Motorcycle safety: When done responsibly, lane splitting can enhance motorcycle safety by helping motorcycle riders avoid situations like traffic jams.


On the other hand, there can also be significant risks involved when lane splitting:

Driver lack of awareness: One of the primary risks of lane splitting is that other drivers may not be aware of the presence of a motorcyclist moving between lanes. Sudden lane changes by drivers who fail to check their mirrors or blind spots can result in collisions.

Excessive speeds: Motorcyclists who lane split at excessive speeds increase the likelihood of accidents. Riding too fast between lanes reduces reaction time and leaves little margin for error. It is generally safer at lower speeds and in situations where vehicles are moving slowly or are stationary.
Motorcyclist skill and Experience: Inexperienced riders may not possess the same level of proficiency in assessing traffic conditions and making split-second decisions.


California Highway Patrol Lane Splitting Safety Guidelines 

is lane splitting legal in california

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) provides guidelines to educate both motorcyclists and drivers about safe lane splitting practices. 

For Motorcyclists:

  • Motorcyclists should choose a speed that is safe for the current traffic conditions. 
  • It is typically safer to split lanes between the far left lanes than between other lanes of traffic.
  • Pay close attention to the movement of other vehicles and be prepared to react quickly.
  • Avoid lane splitting next to large motor vehicles, such as trucks, buses, and big rigs.
  • Stay out of the blind spots of other vehicles. 
  • Riding on the shoulder is not lane splitting and it is illegal.
  • Position yourself where you are visible to drivers, making it easier for them to see you when changing lanes.
  • Wear bright/reflective gear to help drivers see you.

For Drivers:

  • Motorcyclists can lane split legally in California.
  • Drivers should regularly check their mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.
  • Abrupt lane changes or sudden movements can pose a risk to motorcyclists. 
  • Drivers should signal their intentions and make gradual maneuvers.
  • Intentionally blocking a motorcycle rider in a way that can cause harm to the motorcyclist is illegal.


Can Lane Splitting Impact a Personal Injury Case?

In the unfortunate event of a motorcycle accident, the practice of lane splitting can potentially influence the outcome of a personal injury case. While lane splitting is legal in California, the circumstances surrounding the accident can impact liability.

If you were involved in a lane splitting accident, it’s crucial to prove you were lane splitting in a manner that adheres to California law and safety guidelines. Demonstrating responsible riding can help support your personal injury case. If a motorcyclist was lane splitting at an unsafe speed or in a reckless manner, it could contribute to the determination of liability.

If the motorcycle accident resulted from the negligence of another driver, such as abruptly changing lanes without signaling, the driver can be held responsible for the damages. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you prove the other party’s negligence and recover compensation for your injuries and losses.


Contact Our California Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Our legal team specializes in motorcycle accident cases and understands the nuances of California’s lane splitting laws. At Fontana Injury Law Group, we are committed to advocating for motorcycle accident victims and will fight for fair and full compensation.

You don’t have to navigate the aftermath of a motorcycle accident alone—let us be your advocates in seeking justice. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Scroll to top