California Lane Splitting

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Is it legal?

“I got a ticket while splitting lanes on Interstate 405. I passed a truck in the HOV lane, on the right, between lanes. I thought this was legal, but I received a citation under code section 21655.8. The description was ‘Cross Yellow Lines.’ -Charles in California”

You were cited under the California code section which makes it a violation to cross over double parallel lines to enter or exit a carpool lane. In other words, the officer cited you for crossing the double line, not for lane splitting. Although lane splitting is permitted in California, no state has passed legislation specifically making lane splitting legal. The California DMV website specifically states, “California law does not allow or prohibit motorcycles from passing other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane, a practice often called lane splitting, lane sharing or filtering” After California signed AB-51 into law in 2016, the Los Angeles Times boldly proclaimed: “Motorcycle lane splitting is officially legal in California.” Contrary to news headlines, the language in the new law (vehicle code section 21658.1) only defines lane splitting and permits the CHP to develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting “safely.” The “California Motorcyclist Safety Program Lane Splitting General Guidelines” issued in 2013, which were the basis for California creating the law allowing the CHP to develop guidelines, were very well written and all riders should review and consider them. However, the CHP discussed the issue with the Office of Administrative Law and chose not to issue, use or enforce their 2013 guidelines, effectively leaving lane splitting legality undecided in California. As for the rest of the country, the Motorcycle Legal Foundation indicates 37 states explicitly prohibit lane sharing, 12 do not mention it, and one (California) where they deem it legal. There is currently no statute in any state that specifically permits motorcyclists to disregard lane usage laws. If an officer cites you for illegal lane change or lane usage, unsafe driving, failure to obey road signs or markings, or any other code violation, it will probably stick. You will never receive a citation for “lane splitting.”

Harry Deitzler is partner at Hill, Peterson,
Carper, Bee and Deitzler, PLLC. Submit
questions at Motorcyclejustice.com