Berkeley Study Finds Motorcycle Lane Splitting Safe at Some Speeds

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A new study released by University of California Berkeley has found motorcycle lane splitting, the act of motorcyclists driving between lanes of traffic, may be safe at some speeds, the study was published by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Lane splitting is currently legal in California (the practice is illegal in the majority of U.S. states, including in Washington).

Lane Splitting May Be Safe at Certain Speeds

Researchers at Berkeley have found that when traveling at speeds of 10 miles an hour (or less) faster than other traffic, motorcyclists are no more likely to get in a wreck than at any other time. For example, if traffic is traveling at 50 miles per hour, a motorcyclist driving between lanes of traffic at a speed of 55 miles per hour is not at an increased risk for having an accident, per the study results.

However, when a motorcyclist travels more than 10 miles an hour faster than the rest of traffic, risks increase. So, if that same motorist was traveling at 61 miles per hour and lane splitting while the rest of traffic cruised along at 50 miles per hour, the motorcyclist is at a higher risk of being in an accident.

Other Key Findings of the Study

In addition to finding that lane splitting might not be as dangerous as it’s often perceived to be when traveling at certain speeds, the researchers also found these facts.

  • 36.5 percent of frequent riders engage in lane splitting
  • 62.1 percent of all motorcyclists who lane split do so on both freeways and other roadways
  • The younger the rider, the more frequently lane splitting occurs
  • There has been a very large reduction from the year 2013 of the occurrence of lane splitting at speeds of 15 miles per hour and higher, but a large increase in the occurrence of lane splitting at speeds of 5 miles per hour or higher


Additionally, the 2014 study revealed that there as been a 5.2 percent increase in the level of awareness of the legality of lane splitting in the state of California. The increased awareness could be in part the cause for the study’s finding regarding the overall safety of lane splitting at some speeds.

Lane Splitting Illegal in Washington State and More

In the majority of states in the U.S., including Washington State per Washington Revised Code section 46.61.608, lane splitting is illegal. The practice is often regarded as being highly dangerous for both motorcyclists and drivers of traditional passenger vehicles. Those in favor of lane splitting argue that lane splitting can be a highly effective way of reducing congestion when traffic levels are high.

Whatever the case, if a motorcyclist is breaking the law by splitting lanes and is in an accident, then another motorist might blame the illegal activity as causing or contributing to the accident. This might leave the motorcyclist liable for others' damages, and might reduce any recovery of damages by the motorcyclist, per Washington's comparative negligence laws.

When a Motorcycle Accident Happens

Although the new study did not find lane splitting at some speeds dangerous, it is still illegal in the state of Washington. It might lead to citations to those who violate the law, and as noted above could affect damages recovery if filing an accident claim.

If you have been in a motorcycle accident in Washington, the attorneys at Max Meyers Law, PLLC, are ready to take on your case. If you need help filing a claim for damages, don’t hesitate about calling us today. Reach our offices now at 425-399-7000

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.