Report: You Cause Crashes When Motorcycle Lane-Splitting

According to a recently completed French study, motorcycle lane splitting caused a 12% crash increase. Roads where motorcycle lane splitting isn’t allowed? Accidents were down 11%. The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Assn., in conjunction with the Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility, and Planning; as well as the Fédération Francaise des Motards en Colére all were part of the planning.

During and after the study safety records improved

lane splitting in heavy traffic
A motorcyclist rides between the lanes during the afternoon commute | Getty

One unexpected result of the five-year study is that it brought awareness of the problems associated with lane splitting. During and after the study safety records improved. Also, setting up rules around lane splitting helped. Now those involved in the study want to do a second study to explore how lane splitting could be made safer. 

UC Berkley did a study of motorcycle lane-splitting back in 2014. It found that in states where it is legal to lane split motorcycles were involved in fewer accidents where they got rear-ended. Conversely, it found that motorcycles were more likely to rear-end a car. Interestingly, the study also found that riders splitting slowly and safely didn’t expose themselves more so than under non-splitting circumstances. 

Drivers of the cars don’t see the motorcycle

motorcyclist lane splitting in traffic
A motorcyclist splits lanes as he drives south on Interstate 405 freeway in Los Angeles | Getty

RELATED: States You Should Avoid If You’re A Motorcyclist

As is the case with most driving, whether involving cars or motorcycles, slow and steady movements, and lane changes don’t involve the element of surprise like quick actions do. A lot of motorcycle accidents involve quick lane changes by cars. The drivers of the cars don’t see the motorcycle. And the quick lane change means cyclists don’t have any time to react. 

In Southern California, over the last few years, we’ve witnessed that drivers who do see motorcycles coming upon them will move to one side or the other of their lanes. This gives motorcycles an extra amount of room to pass within a lane rather than straddling between two lanes. It also is a subtle alert to the driver ahead that a motorcycle is coming up on the right or left. That is if they are alert and happen to see it in their rearview mirror. 

There is no reason why motorcyclists have to be held up in gridlock

Lane splitting crash
A man on a trail bike crashes into a taxi | Getty

There is no reason why motorcyclists have to be held up in gridlock when they can lane split safely. In congestion when cars are going slow or at a standstill is possibly the safest circumstance for motorcycles to maneuver between lanes. Why not let them enjoy an advantage for driving with more exposure.

Hopefully, for those that read about the study, they will become more aware and careful. Giving that one extra look in the mirrors or over their shoulders can make sure there isn’t a motorcycle hidden from view.