A new study by the CHP and researchers at UC Berkeley shows some interesting findings about lane-splitting; not only is it NOT more dangerous when done at reasonable speeds, but riders who do it wear better gear and have less severe injuries. Read on to get the details.
The new study by UC Berkeley finds that lane-splitters wear better helmets, have fewer alcohol-related collisions, and a lower chance of getting a sever injury in a crash.
To lane split, or not to lane split? It’s a question that always generates a lot of controversy in the riding community, particularly because the laws pertaining to it are so divided; California is the only state where it’s permitted, but the rest of the country expressly prohibits the practice.
A big part of the problem is that, without any experience living with lane-splitting, people in most of the country, auto drivers and motorcycle riders alike – base their opinions on assumptions and hearsay, rather than on statistics. That’s what makes this study, just released last week, so helpful; with over 800,000 registered motorcycles, California is in the unique position of being able to do an in-depth statistical analysis of how safe the practice really is.
What the Study Found
The study took two years, and is the result of a joint effort between the California Highway Patrol and researchers at UC Berkeley, and was funded by the Office of Traffic Safety. By analyzing nearly 8,000 traffic collisions, and collecting in-depth information from officers on the scene about the nature of each accident, researchers were able to draw some conclusions about the safety of lane-splitting based on whether or not the rider was splitting lanes at the time of the incident.
Their findings were eye-opening; among them, the study found that:
- Lane-splitting riders were much less likely to be rear-ended (2.7% vs. 4.6%), but more likely to have rear-ended another vehicle (36.4% vs. 14.9%).
- Lane-splitters were much less likely to suffer head injury (9.1% vs. 16.5%), torso injury (18.6% vs. 27.3%), or fatal injury (1.4% vs. 3.1%) in their collision.
- Lane-splitters also tended to wear better helmets than non-lane-splitters, and had a lower prevalence of alcohol use at the time of their collision.
- Lane-splitters had much higher incidence of collisions on weekdays and during morning or afternoon rush hour than non-lane-splitters.
- Severity of injury in the collision was highly correlated with the speed differential at the time of the collision; it increased significantly when done at traffic speeds of over 30 MPH, or when rider speed exceeded traffic speed by more than 10 MPH.
What Does This Mean?
There are two interesting things about these findings. One is that lane-splitting is not more dangerous to riders; in many cases, the severity of injury in a collision was actually lower among lane-splitters.
The other is that, as should be expected, the riders decisions have more to do with the results of a collision than anything else. When riders split lanes at excessive speeds, they were much more likely to get into a wreck which is no different than the risk of speeding in any vehicle. In addition, lane-splitters seemed to be more well-prepared for an incident on the road, indicated by a higher use of certified full-face helmets and lower incidence of alcohol use.
It may look dangerous – but university studies say it’s actually not!
The results of this study have pleased many who support the practice, including the American Motorcycle Association: “These findings bolster the position of motorcyclists and traffic-safety officials that responsible lane splitting is a safe and effective tactic for riders, particularly in heavily congested areas,” said Wayne Allard, vice president of government relations for the American Motorcyclist Association. “The AMA endorses these practices and will assist groups and individuals working to bring legal lane splitting or filtering to their states.”
Splitting in Other States
Studies like this are especially helpful for those in other states who want the freedom to split lanes expanded to where they live. Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that would have allowed lane splitting in 2011, but ended up being vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, and similar bills have died in both Texas and Oregon. It would appear that, probably because the practice remains so controversial and the population that it would benefit is so small, lawmakers would rather simply retain the status quo.
So even though it remains an uphill battle for riders who want it legalized in the rest of the country, the good news is that there is now even more reputable evidence indicating that, contrary to so many peoples opinions, the practice is actually a lot safer than its often thought to be.
Do the findings of this study change your opinion on lane-splitting at all? Or do they support what you already believed?