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Motorcycle accidents: Is lane splitting really safer?

It can be challenging to dispel rumors, myths and long-held beliefs about certain activities. This can be true of lawn care, child rearing or driving habits. Fortunately, there are skilled researchers willing to tackle controversial topics and shed scientific light on formerly held beliefs. Unfortunately, some results might be misleading when taken at face value.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley carefully reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions that occurred between June 2012 and August 2013. Nearly 1,000 of those accidents involved motorcycle riders who were splitting lanes at the time of the collision.

The researchers noted:

  • Lane-splitting is safe if done in traffic moving at speeds of 50 mph or less with the caveat that the motorcyclist does not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph.
  • Compared to riders who were not splitting lanes, lane-splitting motorcyclists were markedly less likely to suffer head injury, torso injury or fatal injury.
  • Lane-splitting riders were significantly less likely to be rear-ended than non-lane-splitting riders.
  • Lane-splitting motorcyclists were more likely to be wearing a full-face helmet than other motorcyclists.

While lane-splitting riders were shown to be statistically safer under certain circumstances, this is by no means a safe activity. Motorcyclists put themselves at risk nearly every time they get on the highway. Due to the lack of safety gear to be worn or the lack of safety equipment on the bike itself, riders run the risk of serious injury in any type of vehicle collision. Handled properly by an experienced motorcyclist, lane-splitting in slow traffic can be an effective way to maneuver problem areas. However, due to high speeds or inattentive drivers, lane-splitting remains a dangerous way to travel.

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