UC Berkeley Study Finds Lane-Splitting Is Safe If You're Smart

There’s never been a comprehensive study on the safety of lane-splitting. The University of California Berkeley just changed that, and the research shows that it’s safe – if you’re not a tool. Bookmark this page now.

The study reviewed 5,969 traffic collisions that involved motorcycles between June 2012 and August 2013. What UCB’s Safe Transportation Research & Education Center found confirms what many riders have already known: lane-splitting is safe if you do it at a reasonable speed.


From the report:

Lane-splitting appears to be a relatively safe motorcycle riding strategy 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.

The SafeTREC study, led by Dr. Thomas Rice and his team, also found that riders who split lanes “were very infrequently rear-ended by other motorists” (less than 5 percent) and compared to non-lane-splitting riders were 2 percent less likely to be hit from behind. But it cut both ways, as lane-splitting riders were more likely to rear-end a vehicle – not surprising since may lane-splitting crashes involve a car doing a lane change and the bike hitting them from behind.


Of the almost 6,000 collision-involved motorcyclists we studied, nearly 1,000 were lane-splitting at the time of their collision. When we compared motorcyclists who were lane-splitting with those who were not, we could see that the lane-splitting riders were notably different. Compared with other motorcyclists, lane-splitting motorcyclists were more often riding on weekdays and during commute hours, were using better helmets, and were traveling at lower speeds. Lane-splitting riders were also less likely to have been using alcohol and less likely to have been carrying a passenger. Lane-splitting motorcyclists were much less often injured during their collisions. They were considerably less likely to suffer head injury, torso injury, extremity injury, and fatal injury than riders who were not lane-splitting.


Naturally, the report suggests riders slow down to reduce injuries, and it’s no coincidence that California – the only state that doesn’t prohibit lane-splitting – is now in the process of working on legislation that would legislate the practice. The Assemblyman who sponsored the bill received an early release of the report and have used UCB’s research to set rules that specify a rider can’t exceed 15 MPH above the speed of traffic if it’s traveling 50 MPH or less.

Click these oddly colored words to read the full text of the study.


Photo: Nathan Bittinger/Flickr

Contact the author at damon@jalopnik.com.
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