Should Officers Cite Motorcyclists for Lane-Splitting?
When it comes to riding a motorcycle, one of the biggest perks is the fact that you have certain privileges that drivers of four-wheeled vehicles miss out on. This can include a closer parking spot when there is motorcycle or bike parking at work or stores as well as the capability to make driving adjustments and stop faster than bigger vehicles can. Something else that motorcycle drivers value is the slim bike’s ability to move stealthily between stopped cars and trucks during heavy traffic. While this may be a quicker way to get to home or the office, it can also be a fast way to a ticket. Despite laws against lane-splitting, recent findings have pushed experts to argue against citations for this behavior as it may actually have several benefits for all motorists on the road, not just the motorcycle drivers.
According to South Carolina Motorcycle Laws, motorcycles cannot operate between traffic lanes. While this may currently be the law, changes in other states could cause a shift in nationwide attitudes toward lane-splitting. In 2016, California was the first state to make the practice legal. Many states leave the call of whether or not the driver was behaving in a safe manner up to the police officer issuing the citation, but there are some states, like South Carolina, which do not allow the maneuver.
Researchers at the University of California Berkeley published a study that evaluated accidents involving lane-splitting motorcycles as well as those that were involved in a crash while remaining in their own lanes. Findings showed that injuries sustained while motorcycles were splitting lanes were actually less severe than those suffered by riders stuck in their own lanes. Around 6,000 accidents were evaluated, with almost 1,000 of those involving lane-splitters. Those remaining in their own lanes endured torso injuries 29 percent of the time and head injuries in 17 percent of cases. In contrast, drivers who split traffic lanes suffered torso injuries 19 percent of the time and only reported head injuries in nine percent of crashes. Drivers who split lanes were also less than half as likely to be killed in an accident than those who remained in their own lanes.
While scientists are still studying the factors that lead to the various outcomes, many believe that lane-splitting may not be as dangerous as previously thought. The movement to allow lane-splitting has already had a significant effect in California and is making its way to other states across the country.