On August 19th, 2016, the California Legislature formally defined lane splitting in the vehicle code by passing AB 51. The California Legislature describes lane splitting as, “driving a motorcycle, that has 2 wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, as specified”[A]. AB 51 additionally gives permission to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop official lane splitting guidelines, which are still in progress, ensuring the safety of motorcyclists and surrounding drivers.
Prior to AB 51, lane splitting was unclear in California Law. Due to the lack of definition, lane splitting was considered to be neither legal nor illegal. In 2012, the CHP realized lane splitting guidelines were necessary and developed the guidelines on their website and in the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Motorcycle Handbook. However, because an individual felt the guidelines were underground regulations and filed a complaint, the CHP promptly removed these regulations from both their website and the motorcycle handbook.
Thankfully, passing of AB 51 will allow for official guidelines to be developed regarding lane splitting, providing increased safety for motorists and motorcyclists on the road.
Assembly member Quirk stated:
“AB 51 clarifies that the CHP does have authority to develop educational guidelines on lane splitting. It further asks that they convene a group of stakeholders to provide their expert opinion in the drafting of the guidelines. There are motorcyclists that lane split safely and others that disregard all safety considerations – those are the drivers this bill will help the most.”