Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Sets off “Spirited” Discussion on Social Media
This week, the Richland Police Department posted this reminder about what they called "lane-splitting," or the practice of driving between lines of cars on a road.
What's Lane-splitting, vs. Lane-filtering?
Lane-splitting is, by definition of Washington State Law, when a motorcycle (or other two-wheeled street legal vehicles) drives between two lanes of traffic, moving or not.
The RCW 46.61.608 (revised code of Washington) is pretty clear: It is illegal for any such vehicle to drive between two lanes of traffic (on the 'dotted' line). It's usually done in an attempt to get ahead of other vehicles. As stated by the RPD:
"...all motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane but may not overtake and pass a vehicle in the same lane as the vehicle being overtaken, and that motorcycles cannot be driven between lanes of traffic."
Also from RPD:
"While the state currently prohibits lane splitting, it does allow two motorcyclists to ride abreast in the same lane. Lane splitting can land the rider a $136 ticket!"
There were a number of social media comments defending the practice, including those who quoted California where the practice is legal. Many of these people also cited a Cal Berkely study claiming the practice is safe. 7 years ago, the LA Times reported on this study, which studied 6,000 motorcycle accidents, 1,000 of them involving lane-splitting. The study claimed the practice is safe.
CA is the ONLY state so far to approve this practice. Personal opinion here, that should tell you something.
You can click on the hyperlink and read the story for yourself and decide.
But from a common-sense standpoint, regardless of your stance, it is unnerving to see a motorcycle rider suddenly glide past your driver's door (or passenger) less than a foot from your mirrors. To be honest, the majority of lane-splitting is done by the smaller (for lack of a better word)) crotch-rocket riders. Most Harleys and other big bikes are too large to really make it work.
One big problem? You cannot, regardless of what you drive, ASSUME the other drivers know where you are going, or what you are trying to do when it comes to lane changes or other maneuvers.
Some of the comments from the RPD release are below (names withheld for privacy):
"We were just in California and they were doing this everywhere at 80 mph! It’s legal there. I hope it doesn’t become legal here!! So dangerous!"
"actually proven safer. UC Berkeley published a study on it."
"Yeah, well I saw people try to switch lanes with bikers rolling up between them. "In heavy traffic. UC Berkeley?? That's funny. Noone will ever convince me that it's safer. Especially not UC Berkeley"
"It should be legal, though."
"I've seen motorcyclists lately splitting lanes on 240 when traffic is already moving at 60+ mph" (editors note: Highway 240 between Richland and Kennewick)
The bottom line? Regardless of what you're driving, your head needs to be a on a swivel at all times, and don't get tunnel vision like many people do--especially on freeways.
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