SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – New guidelines for motorcyclists could be headed to California in 2017. The California Highway Patrol now has the power to provide suggestions on the best way for motorcycles to share the road with other drivers.
“It makes me concerned because, you know, a lot of times, if you even look two times, they’ll come on the side of you!,” said driver Maurice Lavender.
“My husband actually drives a motorcycle so I don’t have a problem with it,” said Carissa Gonzales.
Lane splitting occurs when motorcyclists drive between two lanes of vehicles. Until now, its legality is has been in a gray area. This year, California became the only state where the practice is officially on the books.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Patrick Sutton, a motorcycle driver. “The only thing I like less than lane-splitting is sitting in traffic. I try not to alienate drivers when I’m doing it and most people tend to just get out of your way if they see you.”
“Actually, traveling through the lanes is not necessarily a hazard,” said Nate Ashby, California Highway Patrol Officer. “It becomes hazardous when people start going faster than the speed limit or they start doing it in a reckless manner.”
Starting Jan. 1, new law means CHP can make suggestions on what they think is best for motorcycles when it comes sharing a lane with a car. AB 51 was written by Assemblyman Bill Quirk and Tom Lackey.
Some of CHP’s potential suggestions include:
- Motorcyclists shouldn’t drive more than 10 miles per hour faster than the flow of traffic
- Motorcyclists shouldn’t split lanes going faster than 30 miles per hour
- Motorcyclists shouldn’t split lanes at merge points
- Motorcyclists should keep an eye out for cars in the distance
Ashby says the CHP won’t start writing tickets for motorcyclists failing to follow potential suggestions. However, it’s a different story for cars on the road that try to stop a motorcycle from sharing the lane.
“Moving your vehicle in order to impede a motorcycle is a violation,” he said. “It’s a violation of a lane change and you can be cited for that.”
Next up, the potential CHP safety guidelines will go into the DMV’s guidebook for motorcycles. But it’s still up to lawmakers to write specific restrictions in the future on what lane-splitting drivers can and cannot do.
“It’s really up to the motorcyclists to make the prudent choice when and when not to split lanes,” Ashby said. “The chief piece of information that people need to take away from this is that we’re trying to get traffic going from one place to another and let everybody do it safely.”
CHP will still issue tickets if a motorcyclist is driving so fast it becomes unsafe for themselves and others on the road.