California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

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California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote.

This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor.

For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting.

California is America’s playground for motorcyclists, namely in that The Golden State permits motorcycles to split lanes between cars. As we have said many times already here on Asphalt & Rubber, the practice of lane-splitting in California is rather nebulous, legally speaking, and efforts are under way to change that.

One of those efforts has been AB 51, which I’ve already spent some words on, weighing it pros and cons. As such, I would advise all motorists to give some thought on the subject, before blindly supporting this bill. For what it is worth, my legally trained opinion is that AB 51 has substance, but lacks teeth.

AB 51 will do motorists in California a service by expressly permitting lane-splitting, though it will leave the act still nebulous in practice, with no clear indication of what legal lane-splitting looks like.

In the end, the act will still fall back on California’s “safe and prudent manner” catchall provision, which has been little help to motorcyclists who find themselves defending their situation to an officer or insurance adjuster who disagrees with their perspective.

However, there are gains to be made by allowing the CHP and other entities to educate and teach safe lane-splitting techniques, but the worry here is that what the CHP creates as “guidelines” can once again become the de facto law on the subject, without legislative input.

This is what ran the CHP afoul of things in the past, and caused its lane-splitting guidelines to be removed from the CHP website and other materials. As much as we should want to see safe lane-splitting advocated, we shouldn’t cut corners and blur the separation of powers.

As you can tell, although Ab 51 is plainly written, it creates some complex legal and political issues. Chew carefully, dear readers.

Source: Lane Splitting is Legal