Do you drive on State Route 99 and Mack Road in Sacramento? If so, you may have noticed that more and more motorcyclists are hitting the road. Their leather wardrobe, helmets, and engine sounds are a clear warning that summer is around the corner.
You may have also noticed that some motorcyclists steer their motorcycles in between lanes in order to navigate through congested traffic. This style of driving is known as “lane splitting”. You probably have wondered whether these motorcyclists were driving legally when driving in between lanes. After all, the practice does seem unsafe.
For many years, motorcyclists have split lanes but there was no clear law for or against lane splitting. Well, now, California has passed legislation formally allowing lane splitting for motorcyclists. It took effect January 1, 2017. The California Highway Patrol has been tasked with determining safe practices for such lane splitting but those regulations have not yet been formalized. Nevertheless, motorcycle lane splitting is now lawful. So how does motorcycle lane splitting affect the Sacramento car driver?
As a driver of a passenger vehicle, you now need to be extra careful. If you see motorcyclists in the immediate vicinity, then you will need to operate your motor vehicle so that it does not weave or get too close to the adjoining lane of travel. Such movement can startle a motorcyclist or cause you to get into a car accident with the motorcycle. You should check your rear and side view mirrors to assess the location of motorcycles.
Motorcycle riders will also have to make rational decisions when choosing to split lanes. The width and size of certain vehicles, including trucks, will make lane splitting a difficult and unsafe task for the motorcycle. Also, stop-and-go traffic conditions may make such lane splitting unsafe since car drivers may have to come to a quick stop or make a quick turning movement in order to avoid rear-ending another vehicle.
Before January 1, 2017, such a motorcycle accident may have been considered more the fault of the motorcyclist since no law permitted motorcycle lane splitting. That perception has changed. You, the car driver, will need to be extra careful operating your car alongside a motorcyclist. You will truly have to share the lane.
Be careful when driving this summer. The law permitting lane splitting is new, and it will take time for regulations to develop in order make the practice safer.