Lane splitting increases rider safety, says AMA

The American Motorcyclist Association has said a recent study shows lane splitting can actually increase rider safety in heavy-traffic situations. 

The study, by the University of California Berkeley shows that motorcyclists who employ the lane-splitting riding technique in traffic situations are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries.

Lane splitting, also known as "lane sharing" or "filtering," is the act of riding between lanes of cars. The practice is common in most countries around the world and is seen as one of the major benefits of motorcycling in the traffic-choked cities of Europe and Asia.

At present, California is the only U.S. state where lane splitting is legally permitted, however there have been a growing number of voices in recent years calling for the practice to be legalized. The AMA, in particular, has been increasingly vocal:

"Perhaps one of the most dangerous situations for any motorcyclist is being caught in congested traffic, where stop-and-go vehicles, distracted and inattentive vehicle operators, and environmental conditions increase the risk of physical contact with another vehicle or hazard," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "Reducing a motorcyclist's exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic."

To download the full UC Berkeley report, visit the AMA website. Among the report's findings are:
  • Lane-splitting is safe if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph
  • 69 percent of lane-splitting motorcyclists were exceeding the traffic speed by 15 mph or less; speed differentials up to 15 mph were not associated with changes in the frequency of injury
  • Compared to riders who were not splitting lanes, lane-splitting motorcyclists were markedly less likely to suffer head injury (9 percent vs. 17 percent), torso injury (19 percent vs. 29 percent) or fatal injury (1.2 percent vs. 3 percent)
  • Lane-splitting riders were significantly less likely to be rear-ended than non-lane-splitting riders (2.6 percent vs. 4.6 percent)
  • Lane-splitting motorcyclists were more likely to be wearing a full-face helmet than other motorcyclists (81 percent vs. 67 percent)
  • Compared to other motorcyclists, lane-splitting riders were more often riding on weekdays and during commuting hours, were using better helmets and were traveling at slower speeds
  • Lane-splitting riders were less likely to have been using alcohol.

"These new findings bolster our position that responsible lane-splitting is a safe and effective riding technique that can be beneficial for riders and motorists alike," Allard said. "Lane splitting eases traffic congestion by taking motorcyclists out of the line of cars and trucks. And the practice increases safety by allowing motorcycle riders to avoid the risk of rear-end collisions in stopped or slow-moving traffic."

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