do motorcycles have the right of way

When Do Motorcycles Have The Right-Of-Way in California? Lane Splitting Explained

do motorcycles have the right of way

In California, motorcycles must follow the same rules of the road as all other drivers. A motorcyclist is to be held to the same responsibilities and given the same rights as any other motorist. However, because of their smaller size, motorcycles are allowed to do some things in traffic other types of vehicles are not able to do: Lane splitting.

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting is a right-of-way granted to motorcyclists due to their size and maneuverability while riding in slower traffic.

Traffic laws specify when a particular motorist is to yield the right-of-way to another motorist. A common right-of-way situation occurs at a four-way stop intersection. The following rules help motorists to clear four-way stop intersections safely and efficiently:

  • The first vehicle to arrive at the intersection is the first to proceed.
  • When two vehicles in crossing lanes arrive at the same time, the vehicle to the right proceeds first.
  • When two vehicles from opposite directions arrive at the same time, the vehicle proceeding straight has the right-of-way, and both can proceed if neither is turning.
  • When two vehicles arrive at the same time from opposite directions and both are turning onto the same road, the vehicle making a left turn must yield to the vehicle making a right turn.

Another common right-of-way traffic situation occurs when one vehicle is waiting to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic that does not need to stop. The left-turning motorist must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic. In this situation, and despite having the right-of-way, a significant number of motorcycle accidents occur when a larger vehicle fails to yield to an oncoming biker.

Lane Splitting Should be Done with Safety in Mind

Motorcycles may legally have the right-of-way to drive between cars in California but it doesn’t mean they can do so in a way that increases the chances of a crash. CHP has compiled a list of safety tips motorcyclists should be mindful of if they choose to lane split.

  • Pay attention to the driving environment – road conditions, other vehicles, weather, and time of day.
  • The faster a motorcycle goes relative to other traffic, the greater the likelihood of an accident.
  • Increased speed has a positive correlation with increased danger.
  • It is safer for a motorcycle to split between the far left lanes of traffic.
  • Avoid lane splitting between large vehicles like buses or semis.
  • It is illegal to ride on the right shoulder.
  • Make an effort to be visible to other motorists – avoid riding in blind spots, wear bright clothing, and keep your bike’s headlight on.

Motorcyclists who choose to lane split in a way that CHP determines is jeopardizing the safety of other drivers can be ticketed.

Common Sense and Motorcycle Right-of-Ways

When it comes to motorcycles and any other motorized vehicles on the road, the motorcycle and its rider are going to get the worst of it in a crash. Even in traffic situations where motorcycles legally have the right-of-way, it can be a deadly mistake not to anticipate that other vehicles will fail to yield.

In addition to being aware of the need to surrender the right-of-way in some situations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says motorcyclists can help themselves in all types of traffic situations by practicing the following:

  • Make sure to be seen by other motorists
  • Communicate driving intentions clearly
  • Leave plenty of room between vehicles
  • Be prepared to act quickly

Fewer accidents happen and more drivers arrive at their destinations safely when everyone on the road pays attention to what they are doing, appreciates the risks involved in driving, and exercises a little common courtesy. When a motorcycle is hit by a car, the injuries could be severe or fatal. If you or a loved one are involved in a motorcycle accident, contact our California motorcycle accident lawyer at Curtis Legal Group for a free consultation.