Should we legalize motorcycle lane splitting in Pennsylvania?

Motorcyclists have practiced lane splitting for years, despite the fact that it is not explicitly legal in most states. This practice has been especially popular in the state of California. In fact, lane splitting has become so common in this state that California is now considering a new law that would define lane splitting, legalize it and establish safety guidelines for motorcyclists. If this bill passes, other states, including Pennsylvania, are likely to consider enacting similar laws in the future.

motorcycle lane splitting in Pennsylvania

The California Lane Splitting Bill

The proposed law that would legalize lane splitting in the state of California, AB51, was most recently amended in California’s Senate at the beginning of June. The bill defines lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle, that has 2 wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.” The purpose of the bill is to provide this formal definition of lane splitting and provide authority to various entities that will be responsible for developing lane splitting guidelines. The entities named include the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Office of Traffic Safety, the Department of Transportation and the Department of California Highway Patrol.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting Statistics

Statistics from a recent research study indicate that lane splitting may reduce the frequency and severity of injuries for motorcyclists. This study was completed by researchers at the University of California Berkeley and involved a review of nearly 6,000 motorcycle accidents that occurred in 2012 and 2013. Of the accidents reviewed, 997 involved lane splitting. According to the study, motorcyclists who were lane splitting at the time of the accident were:

  • Less likely to be carrying a passenger than those who were not lane splitting.
  • Traveling at lower speeds than those who were not lane splitting.
  • Wearing better quality helmets than those who were not lane splitting.
  • More likely to be riding on a weekday and during commuting hours than those who were not lane splitting.
  • Less likely to suffer certain types injury than those who were not lane splitting, including head injuries, torso injuries, injuries to the extremities and fatal injuries.

When injuries did occur, researchers found that there was a strong connection to the motorcycle’s speed, the speed of the traffic and the difference between these two speeds when the accident occurred. In general, the risk of injury increased when the speed of the motorcycle was at least 15 MPH greater than the speed of traffic and/or the traffic speed was greater than 50 MPH.

Possible Implications for Pennsylvania

The results of the study conducted by the University of California indicate that lane splitting is relatively safe when motorcyclists are driving no more than 15 MPH faster than the traffic around them and the average speed of traffic is no more than 50 MPH. In fact, the risk of injuries under these conditions may even be lower when motorcyclists engage in lane splitting. If California follows through with this bill, it is possible that Pennsylvania will eventually pass similar laws.

Whether or not lane splitting is legalized in Pennsylvania, it is important to remember that motorcyclists have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other driver on the road in this state. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident that was caused by another driver, you may be able to recover compensation by filing a personal injury claim. Contact a qualified attorney in your area to learn more.