UC Berkeley Study Shows Lane-Splitting to Be Safe

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The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash.

The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.

This study will be important for shaping the conversation about lane-splitting, not only in California, but throughout the entire United States. It’s no coincidence then that California’s current attempt to codify lane-splitting mirrors these findings from UC Berkeley.

The entire UC Berkeley findings can be read here, but the bullet points are as follows:

  • Lane-splitting is safe if done in traffic moving at 50 mph or less, and if motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles by more than 15 mph;
  • 69% of lane-splitting motorcyclists were exceeding the traffic speed by 15 mph or less; speed differentials up to 15 mph were not associated with changes in the frequency of injury;
  • Compared to riders who were not splitting lanes, lane-splitting motorcyclists were markedly less likely to suffer head injury (9% vs. 17%), torso injury (19% vs. 29%) or fatal injury (1.2% vs. 3%);
  • Lane-splitting riders were significantly less likely to be rear-ended than non-lane-splitting riders (2.6% vs. 4.6%);
  • Lane-splitting motorcyclists were more likely to be wearing a full-face helmet than other motorcyclists (81% vs. 67%);
  • Compared to other motorcyclists, lane-splitting riders were more often riding on weekdays and during commuting hours, were using better helmets and were traveling at slower speeds;
  • Lane-splitting riders were less likely to have been using alcohol.

“These new findings bolster our position that responsible lane-splitting is a safe and effective riding technique that can be beneficial for riders and motorists alike,” said Wayne Allard, AMA Vice President for Government Relations.

“Lane splitting eases traffic congestion by taking motorcyclists out of the line of cars and trucks. And the practice increases safety by allowing motorcycle riders to avoid the risk of rear-end collisions in stopped or slow-moving traffic.”

As loyal A&R readers already know, motorcycle lane-splitting is a common practice in many countries throughout the world – particularly in the highly urbanized areas of Europe and Asia.

A way to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the risk of crashes, lane-splitting for some reason has not been a part of the American vehicle landscape, with California currently being the exception.

With this information in-hand though, hopefully lane-splitting proponents can begin to challenge the status quo opinion that lane-splitting is unsafe. At the very least, the cold hard facts can stand against the opinion-fueled stigma, and we can begin to change those perceptions with reality.

Source: AMA