Lane splitting or “white lining” as it is also called, occurs when a motorcyclist travels in the vacant space between vehicles in parallel lanes of one-way traffic. While lane splitting may be safe and appropriate in slow traffic, it is extremely hazardous when done at high speeds. If a motorcycle operator splits lanes and causes an accident that injuries other drivers, the motorcyclist can be found at fault for the accident. The injured party (or parties) may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and other damages suffered due to the lane splitting the accident.
Lane splitting is not legal in every US state but it is lawful in California. The reason it’s legal is partially due to the heavy, congested traffic on most California freeways. Major expressways as well as large surface streets in the state can be absolutely jam-packed during peak hours of traffic seven days a week. Motorcycle operators tend skip between lanes during these high traffic rush periods so they can avoid getting stuck in traffic tie-ups. The problem with lane splitting is that it takes just a fraction of a second for another vehicle to switch lanes without that driver noticing the motorcycle coming up from behind. As a result, lane splitting can and does often end up in serious accidents involving more than one vehicle.
When an accident happens while a motorcycle is lane splitting, the fault of the accident may lie with the motorcycle rider himself or with the other driver. Law enforcement’s view and the action of both parties involved is what may be used to determine who’s at fault. California law permits lane splitting when done in a “safe and prudent” manner. The exact definition of “safe and prudent” is left to the interpretation of law enforcement and the courts. This is why it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side as lane splitting cases are rarely cut and dry.
Often times the motorcycle rider will be blamed for the cause of a lane splitting accident he or she was involved in. However, if the motorcyclist is able to show that the other driver’s actions played a role in what happened, the motorcyclist may be able to receive compensation (partial or full) for his or her injuries and property damage.
Why Other Drivers May Not See Motorcycles Approaching
There are many reasons why other drivers on the road may not see a motorcycle approaching from the side or behind. Some of the most common reasons why include:
Cell phone use – Many drivers today are distracted while driving because they are using their cell phones in traffic. It only takes a split second for a lane splitting accident to occur which means everyone on the road must be paying close attention to the traffic. Cell phone use while driving is a growing problem across the US. It is against the law in California to talk on a cellphone while driving unless it’s done to make an emergency call. It’s also unlawful to text while driving although a recent law passed does allow drivers to read maps on cell phones while driving.
Speeding – Anytime someone on the road exceeds the speed limit, there is a great chance of an accident occurring. A motorcycle operator who is speeding while splitting lanes can very easily cause a terrible accident. The biker can lose control of his/her motorcycle and fall off and/or the motorcycle can strike other vehicles on the roadway to cause a horrific chain-reaction, pile-up accident involving multiple vehicles.
Lack of lights on motorcycle – Motorcycles can be difficult for other drivers to see on the clearest of days due to their size. If a motorcycle rider is splitting lanes while neglecting to turn on his lights because it’s raining, foggy or dark outside and an accident occurs, the fault of the accident could be put on the motorcyclist.
Bad weather – It is difficult enough to see motorcycles on the road when the weather is favorable let alone when the weather turns sour. It can be very difficult to see a motorcycle when it’s lane splitting during a rainstorm or when there’s a heavy blanket of fog over the roadway.
If you or someone you care about has been injured in a lane splitting accident that you feel was not your fault, it’s important to speak to a personal injury attorney. It’s possible that you are eligible to receive compensation for your injuries if it’s proven the other driver was the one at fault.