Since the beginning of 2018, I have had more and more cases in which my client is simply commuting to work and lane splitting when a vehicle suddenly changes lanes directly into their path causing a violent broadside collision, an ejection from the bike and serious injuries.
Then the CHP Traffic Collision Report concludes the motorcyclist is the “Primary Collision Factor” for riding in violation of the California Vehicle Code §22350- Unsafe Speed and, to add insult to injury, the CHP does not mention that state the suddenly turning car is even an “associated factor” for making an Unsafe Lane Change.
So what exactly is the California law on lane splitting?
As you are well aware, lane spitting reduces traffic commute times for riders and other drivers. It is also safer for bikers who can avoid being rear-ended by distracted drivers in stop and go traffic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated lane splitting “offers a means of reducing congestion in addition to possible safety benefits.”
A 2015 study at the University of California Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research & Education Center found that 17% of the 6,000 motorcycle accidents in California between 2012 and 2013 involved lane splitting at the time of their collision. That same study found that lane splitting was “relatively safe” if done in moving traffic at 50 mph or less and motorcycles don’t exceed other vehicle’s speed by 15 mph, that lane splitting motorcyclist were less likely to suffer head, torso and fatal injuries but more than twice as likely to rear-end another vehicle.
But the bottom line is that lane splitting takes another vehicle out of the line and improve traffic for all.
The Lane Splitting Law:
Lane splitting date back to the 1960’s when most motorcycle were air-cooled and would overheat in California notoriously bad “stop and go” traffic. The practice of lane splitting was never illegal in California. It is the only state in country where lane splitting is legal.
However, on August 19, 2016 California Vehicle Code §21658.1 (Assembly Bill 51) was officially enacted making lane splitting legal in California. The California Highway Patrol was instructed to develop “educational guidelines” for the safety of motorcyclist and drivers. So this did not actually change the law, it just empowered the CHP to make guidelines.
In September 27, 2018, the CHP released “Lane Splitting Safety Tips” which begins with a BOLD Disclaimer that
“Lane Splitting can be dangerous and extreme caution should be exercised’
The only “Tip” that refers to speed states:
“Danger increases at higher speed differentials”
So according to Cycle World and others, the new law didn’t do much to actually set up real guidelines for lane splitting.
The Bottom Line on Lane Splitting:
I believe that CHP Officers have “Marching Orders” from the Sacramento CHP Commanders to enforce the old (unapproved) A.B. 51 guidelines for motorcyclist:
- Travel at a speed “no more than 10 MPH” faster than other traffic;
- Not advisable to lane split when traffic flows 30 mph or faster
I deduct this from my review of most if not ALL of my client’s CHP Traffic Collision Reports which compare my client’s allegedly “admitted” speed to the surrounding vehicle’s speed to conclude that my client was riding in violation of the California Vehicle Code §22350- Unsafe Speed for Conditions.
This CHP Report last Page “Conclusion” will then be used by insurance companies for the driver’s at fault to flat out deny lability or claim some sort of comparative negligence (they always say you’re either say 30% or 50% at fault). Total Bull!
To fight this, first, a witness can’t give expert opinions as to your speed and second, and most important, a CHP Officer can only testify as to what the parties said (an exception to the hearsay rule) and what he observed. A CHP’s officer’s opinion as to fault or the Primary Collision Factor or who he believes is at fault is improper and will never see the light of day.
If you were riding at a reasonably safe speed, straight, with a lane, when some Bozo busted out of their lane to jump into an opening next to you (i.e. an Unsafe Lane Change) causing a collision and injuries – Fight It! Win!
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident involving lane sharing/ lane splitting , please call Tom Reinecke – BestMotorycleLawyer.com at (800) 275-8326.
About Thomas G. “Tom” Reinecke: Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been the highest rated California Motorcycle Lawyer. A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and Author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases.
Over the years, I have had a dramatic increase in motorcycle accident cases caused by drunk drivers. These cases include left-turn cases, unsafe lane changes and even rear-end collisions in broad daylight.
In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol impaired driving crashes accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
With other motorcycle collisions, clients are entitled to get paid for:
- Your motorcycle property damage or if “totaled” – the Actual Cash Value (ACV);
- Your past and future medical bills;
- Your lost wages and loss of future earnings; and
- Money for pain and suffering for ALL of your hams and losses.
However, if the driver at fault was a Drunk Driver, you may also be entitled to what are called “Punitive Damages” under California Civil Code §3294.
Punitive Damages is money intended to punish the Drunk Driver and to send a clear message to the Drunk Driver that society does not tolerate Drunk Drivers in an attempt to prevent drunk driving in the future.
So how does one get Punitive Damages in a motorcycle collision case? It’s not easy.
First, one must get not only the Traffic Collision Report but the DUI Arrest Report. This is difficult and will most likely require the filing of civil lawsuit and then issuing a Subpoena Duces Tecum – a formal subpoena to have the custodian at the police department appear and produce the report.
As a side note, if a District Attorney calls, that means that they are investigating the collision and they may file a criminal complaint against the Drunk Driver. It is important that you return the call form the D.A., cooperate and advise them of your injuries and for them document to support your damages (medical bills and property damage). A DUI with injuries may be prosecuted as a felony.
But just because someone was intoxicated, caused a collision and there were injuries does not automatically entitle you to punitive damages in your civil case or claim.
It is important to also note that punitive damages are not covered by insurance. Otherwise, it would defeat the purpose and legislative intent of “sending a message” and some would make the decision to drive drunk with no financial consequences.
As such, before making a decision to file a complaint, I would highly recommend conducting a detailed asset search to see if the alleged Drunk Driver has any assets, income or equity in real property that may satisfy a future judgment for punitive damages. The other reason is that the drunk driver’s insurance company will fight “tooth and nail” to protect their insured from a judgment for punitive damages. It is my experience that a valid claim and cause of action alleging punitive damages may expedite settlement to avoid exposing their insured to personal judgment.
If a civil lawsuit is filed it must allege specific facts as to the intoxicated driver. According to the leading case of Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal. 3d 893, a civil complaint seeking punitive damages must allege and prove that the driver acted with “malice” meaning must prove at trial that:
- The Defendant drank alcohol;
- The Defendant knew he/she would drive after drinking alcohol;
- The Defendant drove while intoxicated;
- The Defendant knew the probable consequences of driving drunk; and
- The Defendant willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.
For example one must show that the driver had a history of alcoholism, been arrested and convicted for drunk driving on numerous prior occasions or some sort of circumstances showing “aggravation or outrage” such as “driving in a highly reckless manner” in a “vehicle capable of great force and speed” with “absolute disregard and callous indifference to the rights and safety of others.”
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident involving a drunk driver, please call Tom Reinecke – BestMotorycleLawyer.com at (800) 275-8326.
About Thomas G. “Tom” Reinecke:
Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been the highest rated California Motorcycle Lawyer. A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and Author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases.
There exists many types of motorcycles on and off the roads. A lot of times you can tell what kind of motorcyclist you are depending on the type of motorcycle that you ride. Dirt motorcyclists are classified as typically a track rider or cross country rider. Road motorcyclists have a lot more, there are cruisers, track riders, stunters, squids, mechanics, travelers, and philosophers. Since we deal road motorcyclists we are going to focus our attention on these types of street riders.
Cruisers are your normal leather wearing jacket riders who are tough and never seem to ride with a full face helmet. They enjoy group rides and keeping their motorcycles in pristine condition. They are charitable and love to help in the community. They stand for right but don’t ever cut them off. They love their Harleys more than their own wives. They are like cowboys but more comfortable and enjoy traveling to motorcycle rallies.
2. Road Travelers
They can be compared to cruiser riders but are more on the road exploring cities and the country than they are at home. They are found out on the roads during the summer time and the weekends and normally found with a partner riding behind them. They tend to be older and love Goldwings or the HD Glider Motorcycles. They are always ready for camping next to the road if they need to. These riders tend to ride with plastic or rubber clothes because they don’t care about the amount of water that rains on them.
These riders ride the enduro motorcycles that aren’t great for either on or off the roads. They are the motorcycles that are semi-big and bulky and stand really high off the ground to have rock clearance. These riders will typically ride out in the mountain sides and hit the off-road trails to explore the wilderness and be in the true outdoors. They normally ride with off-road helmets and padded jackets.
These riders always have the most modified motorcycles with cages, a tank used as a seat, foot pegs in twelve different places, a hole in their rear seat, and always have at least one wheel in the air. They are normally in good bouncing shape as they love to jump from one sitting position to standing or laying down position. They wear hooded sweatshirts and tight pants, and a helmet with the visor open. Also found in big or small parking lots doing lots and lots of circles.
These guys are brand new to motorcycling and are trying to fit in on a budget. They wear short sleeves and shorts when riding, will have a motor burn somewhere on their legs and will wear vans or flips when riding. Everyone hopes they will eventually spend some money for proper riding equipment and most likely to be involved in a road rash accident. Never sell a new motorcycle to these newbies.
Often found in the garage or at the parts store. They know every aspect of the motorcycle and will do all they can to get every inch of horsepower out of their iron steed. They love to learn how things work and are willing to take their motorcycle apart and tweak even the finest of details to make it run without a flaw. They never feel they need a certificate to say the are a mechanic, they just get to work. You may have to wait until the weekends to see them because the spend all their other time working on their motorcycles.
These riders love to ride older motorcycles with a more simple design. Cafe Racer style with low handle bars and sporty wheels, normally a Triump brand. These guys love to just ride and fly down the roads. They like the in-between look of a cruiser and a sportbike but want a lighter feel with very limited components. The more simple the motorcycle the happier they are. They typically can be compared to a greaser that could be found in the old TV show “Happy Days”.
These riders only ride to get from home to work or wherever they need to be quickly and efficiently. They are the ones that ride upright motorcycles made for good posture and can be very economical. They all ride with quiet mufflers because they don’t have a sense of hatred and they are very safe and cautious about their riding. They will always be respectful and just want to keep a smile on their face.
Let us know what type of rider you are and if you enjoyed this simple read. Whatever and wherever you decide to ride be sure to stay safe and ride smart.
If you are ever in a motorcycle accident contact The Reinecke Law Firm at (800) 275-8326 for a free consultation. You may be eligible for compensation of your injuries and damaged properties. The Reinecke Law Firm has helped thousands of motorcyclists with their accidents and knows how to help you with yours! Call us today!
Many motorcyclists believe after being involved in a left turn motorcycle accident that they are protected by the California Vehicle Code § 21801, which states that the driver of a vehicle will yield the right of way, until the turn can be made with a reasonable difference. The motorcyclist in a left turn collision may believe that they do not need to be represented by a lawyer, since it appears like it is clear who is at fault. But avoiding motorcycle injuries is not always possible, and neither is determining fault by reading the CVC.
If you have never ridden in Southern California chances are you need to make a few adjustments about your riding habits, especially if you have not been riding in the big cities. Safety is our biggest priority when it comes to motorcycling on the streets and we are here to help you lower your chances of being involved in a motorcycle accident.
If you don’t know already, lane-splitting or lane-sharing is legal in the Golden State of California, this is a huge help as the traffic is horrendous at all times of the day and on a motorcycle your commute just got 5x’s shorter. If you plan to lane-split follow the guidelines provided by California Highway Patrol. Remember that lane-splitting is not illegal but you still can get a ticket for unsafe lane-splitting.
You must wear a DOT approved helmet when riding a motorcycle, that is the law in California and in most states that care enough about their citizens. Your survival rate after having been in a motorcycle accident is significantly higher when a proper sized and worn helmet is on a rider.
Stay out of drivers blind spots. Blind spots can be the result of side-swiped motorcycle accidents. Lane-splitting increases the risk of getting side-swiped or pushed out of the lane and can be very painful if contact is made. If you have a hard time seeing the drivers eyes then chances are that they can’t see you.
Always be seen. Be visible and wear proper clothing that will help you stand out, especially when riding at night. The more you stand out the more likely to be seen and the lower chances of an accident.
Obey the speed limits. Speed limits are assigned to all roads for the purpose of safety. Yes, it is cool to go really fast and speed down the road and getting that adrenaline rush always seems to give you a high. Keep those speeds to the track days! Speeding through traffic and on highway roads is very dangerous. Public roads have uneven surfaces, debris, cars and trucks, traffic, reflectors, and other hazards that make it unsafe. The last thing is, it’s highly illegal to speed and you will get cited for such violations.
Play “everyone is out to kill me”. What this means is to avoid as much as possible to be a target. Avoid being a target to everything and everyone. It means ride fully expecting drivers to not see you and positioning yourself to be more visible to any driver that can possibly ruin your day. Don’t play “Everyone is out to chase me”, that game is meant for the race track.
Be friendly. Most drivers hate motorcyclists maining because they don’t have a motorcycle to ride. Actually the reason most motorists don’t like motorcyclists is because they get very close to their cars and if they get even a nic on their car from your motorcycle they will try to stop you. Be a courteous motorcyclist and do the right thing if you do damage someone’s vehicle, after all, you would hate them if you were in their shoes.
Have fun and ride safely. One last thing, if you are injured in a motorcycle accident call The Reinecke Law Firm for a free accident consultation at (800) 275-8326. The Reinecke Law Firm has helped thousands of motorcyclists recover from their accidents and has the knowledge to help you with your case.