Lane splitting, also known as white-lining or stripe-riding, refers to the practice of a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic. The California Vehicle Code does not explicitly prohibit lane splitting, but it also does not specifically authorize it. Consequently, determining liability in personal injury cases involving lane splitting can be complex.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in California can help you identify all the at-fault parties, collect strong evidence to prove liability, and maximize your financial compensation.

Legal Status of California Lane Splitting

Motorcycle lane splitting in California does not fall under a specific law but rather exists within a legal gray area. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) takes a neutral view of lane splitting. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has issued guidelines to promote motorcyclist safety during lane-splitting practices, such as:

  • Riding at a speed no more than 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic.
  • Avoiding lane splitting when traffic is flowing at 30 mph or faster.
  • Being cautious and alert at all times.

These guidelines are not legally binding but are intended to promote safety on the roads. You could get involved in traffic and road accidents with other motor vehicles even after following California motorcycle lane split guidelines.

Common Misconceptions and Myths About Lane Splitting

Myth # 1: California Department of Motor Vehicles Permits Lane Splitting

While California is unique in not explicitly outlawing lane splitting, it is not a free-for-all. It would be incorrect to assume that lane splitting is legal in the state. There are no specific laws permitting it or banning it. Instead, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) provides guidelines for safe lane splitting. Failure to adhere to these guidelines or engaging in reckless behavior can still result in citations or legal consequences.

Myth # 2: Lane Splitting is Safe at Any Speed

Do you ever ask yourself, is lane splitting dangerous? While there is no specific speed limit for lane splitting in California, it is not a free pass to ride at any speed. Motorcyclists should maintain a reasonable and safe speed differential relative to surrounding traffic and follow other traffic laws. It is a bad idea to ignore posted speed limits and surrounding vehicles heading in the same direction to get out of traffic jams.

Myth # 3: Lane Splitting is Only for Aggressive Riders

Some drivers view lane splitters as aggressive or reckless. However, many motorcyclists lane split responsibly and courteously, recognizing it as a means of improving traffic flow and reducing congestion. While splitting lanes or lane sharing, motorcyclists should stay aware of other vehicles and remain as safe as possible on the roads.

Photo of Truck on road

Advantages and Risks of Lane Splitting on California Roads


  • Reduced Traffic Congestion
  • Decreased Travel Time
  • Enhanced Fuel Efficiency
  • Increased Visibility


  • Potential for Accidents
  • Driver Distraction
  • Limited Space for Maneuvering
  • Legal Ambiguity

Lane Splitting Safety Guidelines

There is no motorcycle organization to develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting. However, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Follow the CHP guideline of riding at a speed no more than 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic. Avoid excessive speeding, especially in congested or high-traffic areas.
  • Lane filtering is safest when traffic is moving at speeds of 30 mph or less. Avoid lane splitting at high speeds or in heavy traffic conditions where there is limited space between vehicles.
  • Make yourself visible to other motorists by wearing brightly colored or reflective gear and using your motorcycle’s headlights, even during daylight hours.
  • Maintain a steady and consistent speed while lane splitting. Avoid sudden movements or weaving between lanes, which can startle other drivers and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Assume that other drivers may not see you while lane splitting or obey traffic laws. You need to take proactive measures to protect yourself. Leave extra space between your motorcycle and other vehicles to allow for maneuvering room.
  • If traffic conditions become too congested or unsafe for same-lane splitting, consider merging back into a regular traffic lane until conditions improve. Traffic safety should always come first.

Splitting lanes of traffic requires different techniques depending on whether you are on divided or undivided streets. As speed increases, vehicle drivers will sometimes intentionally block riders from changing lanes. Other vehicle drivers rarely give motorcyclists ample room to maneuver their bikes while changing lanes. You also need to exercise extreme caution regarding moving vehicles in other lanes.

Legal Implications and Consequences of Illegal Lane Splitting

Illegal lane splitting can lead to specific legal implications and consequences for motorcyclists due to the unique legal system surrounding the practice. This is how it applies in California:

Traffic Citations

Motorcyclists engaging in illegal lane splitting in California may receive traffic citations for violating various traffic laws, including unsafe passing or reckless driving. Split lane citations can result in fines, points on the motorcyclist’s driving record, and potential increases in insurance premiums.

License Suspension or Revocation

Repeat or egregious violations of lane splitting laws in California can lead to license suspension or revocation. Losing the privilege to ride can have serious consequences for daily life and personal freedom.

Legal Liability

If illegal lane splitting results in an accident or injury, the motorcyclist may be held legally liable for damages. This could include compensating injured parties for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Increased Insurance Costs

A history of traffic violations, including illegal lane splitting, can lead to higher insurance premiums for California motorcyclists. Insurance companies may view motorcyclists with a record of unsafe riding behavior as higher-risk policyholders, resulting in increased costs or limited coverage options.

Combating Bias: The Role of an Attorney in Lane Splitting Accident Cases

Bias can be pervasive and challenging to overcome in road accidents. Motorcycle riders involved in such incidents often face unfair prejudices and assumptions, making it essential to have an experienced lawyer by your side.

Seasoned motorcycle crash lawyers are skilled at fighting the inherent biases and misconceptions against motorcyclists. They can present evidence and arguments to refute unfair assumptions and ensure that your side of the story is heard and given due consideration.

Here are a few other ways your motorcycle accident lawyer will fight for your rights:

Medical Documentation

They will gather medical records, doctor’s reports, and other relevant documentation detailing the extent of your injuries sustained while lane splitting. This includes diagnoses, treatment plans, surgical procedures, rehabilitation efforts, and any ongoing medical needs resulting from the accident. By presenting comprehensive medical evidence, your lawyer aims to counter biased assumptions and demonstrate the seriousness of your injuries.

Expert Testimony

Your attorney may enlist the help of medical experts to testify about the nature and severity of your injuries incurred during a lane-splitting accident. These experts can provide valuable insights into the long-term effects of your injuries, prognosis for recovery, and any permanent disabilities or impairments you may suffer. Expert testimony serves to validate claims and challenge biased perceptions regarding the severity of injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents.

Proving Liability

Your attorney will diligently work to establish liability for the lane splitting accident. This may involve gathering compelling evidence such as eyewitness testimony, accident reconstruction reports, surveillance footage, and police reports to demonstrate how the other party’s negligence or recklessness directly caused the collision. By presenting a clear and compelling case for liability, your lawyer aims to dispel biased narratives that may seek to shift blame onto you as a lane splitter.

Not Wearing a Helmet? Your Motorcycle Injury Attorney Can Help

From a legal standpoint, if a motorcyclist involved in an accident wasn’t wearing a helmet as required by law, it could potentially impact their personal injury claim. While California follows a comparative negligence system, where each party’s degree of fault is considered in determining compensation, not wearing a helmet could be seen as contributory negligence.

This means that if the lack of a helmet contributed to the severity of the injuries sustained in the accident, the compensation awarded to the injured party could be reduced. Insurance companies often tend to attribute fault to motorcyclist behavior for accidents, even in cases where the cause, such as a vehicle door illegally opening and striking a rider, is glaringly evident.

It is important to note that not wearing a helmet does not automatically bar you from recovering compensation. This is how an experienced attorney may approach your claim:

Establishing Duty of Care: Your attorney will carefully outline the specific duties that the other party owes to you, such as following traffic laws, maintaining a safe speed, and remaining attentive while driving.

Breach of Duty: To demonstrate a breach of duty, the law firm will highlight the specific actions or behaviors of the other driver that violated their duty of care. This could involve presenting evidence of reckless driving, such as speeding, aggressive maneuvers, failure to yield, or distracted driving (e.g., texting or talking on a cellphone).

Causation: The attorney will connect the dots between the other party’s breach of duty and the resulting accident and injuries. This usually involves presenting a timeline of events leading up to the collision, supported by witness testimonies, accident reconstruction analyses, and medical records documenting the nature and extent of the motorcyclist’s injuries.

Comparative Negligence: In addressing comparative negligence, the attorney will acknowledge your decision not to wear a helmet but emphasize that this action does not absolve the other party of their responsibility for the accident. Further, they will argue that the primary cause of the accident was the other party’s negligent behavior, which outweighs any contribution from your choice regarding helmet usage.

Expert Testimony: The attorney will call upon expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction experts and medical professionals, to provide authoritative analyses and opinions supporting your claims of negligence on the part of the other driver. These experts use advanced techniques and specialized knowledge to reconstruct the accident, analyze vehicle dynamics, and assess the severity and causation of the injuries. For instance, they may show that higher speed differentials by car drivers is the primary reason for the accident.

Choose a Skilled California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer to Maximize Your Compensation

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Offices of Brown & Gessell for a free consultation. Led by attorneys Steven L. Brown and Douglas A. Gessell, our legal team brings decades of combined experience to the table. Our reputation for providing powerful representation to motorcycle accident victims stems from our proven track record of large settlements and verdicts.

To schedule your free consultation, call (209) 583-3938 or reach us online.