Lane Splitting and Motorcycle Awareness
San Diego, CA – May 10, 2012 - "If you continue to ride, it just shows that you don't care how I feel about your safety," and "I don't want you to stop riding just because of me." They're the two loaded statements that are always thrown out onto the table by my significant other the second that motorcycles come up in conversation. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had to deal with trying to convince my significant other that getting on two wheels is not an imminent death sentence. But it always comes down to one statement, "It's not your riding that I worry about, it's all the other crazy drivers out there."
Dear crazy drivers, thanks for ruining my riding life.
I took the MSF safety course. I know that the rule of thumb is to pretend that you're invisible. I even sent that beautiful significant other of mine to the same course to see that they teach you how to deal with those crazy drivers out there. It helped a little, at least until us Californians found out that not only should we pretend to be invisible, we very literally need to think of cagers as "out to get us."
And by literally, I'm not exaggerating. Here in California, it's neither legal nor illegal to split lanes during heavy traffic. In other words, do it at your own risk. But the actual risk just got a little bit bigger when the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTD) released a report that showed that seven percent of car drivers admitted to trying to block a lane splitting motorcyclist on purpose. That's right. Seven percent of people driving a massive four wheeled vehicle actually owned up to the fact that they go out of their way to use their car to stop a motorcyclist.
I once saw the most bizarre video of a woman in Brazil going so far out of her way to block a motorcyclist from lane splitting that she ran him completely off of the road. Apparently she had tried to block the rider's way who then retaliated by kicking her bumper in a very Bruce Lee fashion. At that point, the woman just lost it completely and plowed her car into him until the rider reached into her car to take away her keys, preventing her from doing further damage. Check it out:
At the time, I thought that the video was a fluke. My good natured self thought that no one in their right mind would ever actually do something so horrid. Only now I'm finding out that seven percent of car drivers in the sunny state of California actually have the gumption to admit that the thought of doing something so dangerous not only crossed their minds, but that they've actually tried it.
On top of all of that, only 53% of drivers actually knew that lane splitting in California is not illegal. While many of our readers may not find this very interesting since lane splitting happens to be considered illegal in most of the United States, it does bring up one major thing that we should all be pondering during the month of May, aka Motorcycle Awareness Month. We often blame cagers for being at fault during a crash. More often than not, if I see an accident between a car and a bike, I blame the driver without even knowing the entire situation. But that's what really gets me. With 53% of car drivers not knowing that lane splitting isn't illegal, whose job is it to tell them otherwise?
For Motorcycle Awareness month, I'm proposing two things. First, let's never forget about that seven percent of apparently very angry people who can't stand to see a biker get a few feet ahead of them in the rat race that is known as California streets and highways. We may think that Motorcycle Awareness Month is there to teach cars to be more aware of the bikes on the road, but maybe it should also be a reminder to us that there really are people out there that mean to harm us and to never let our guard down.
Secondly, let's take it upon ourselves to inform the car community about how we ride. Heck, most of us are members of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) already. Why not send letters to our local lobbyists asking them to do a little more than just put up "Look twice, save a life" billboard for a month but also include lessons about motorcycle laws and safety in our children's driving schools, our traffic schools and so forth. Why not take it upon ourselves to make sure that drivers know about us and our rights rather than expecting them to and then blaming the when they don't.
The study showed that 84.4 percent of riders claim to have never had an incident while lane splitting. If I came home with that grade in high school on my report card, you can bet that my parents weren't going to be stoked. No, it's not a bad grade, but it was never considered a great one either. It could be better after all. While the seven percent of drivers who block riders may be shocking, the 53 percent that don't know about our motorcycle laws is even more so. It means that over half of the people behind the wheel of a car aren't checking for motorcyclists before they change lanes. Not because they're evil or mean, but purely because they don't know to.