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Study Calls Motorcycle Lane-Splitting "Relatively Safe"

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2015-06-01 Kelly Pleskot
Motorcycle Lane Splitting © Provided by MotorTrend Motorcycle Lane Splitting

For non-bikers, it can be annoying and even a bit frightening when a motorcycle weaves its way through the narrow space between traffic lanes. But a new study claims that the practice of lane-splitting is "relatively safe," at least if it's done the right way.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, examined almost 6,000 accidents involving motorcycles between June 2012 and August 2013, and 997 of these accidents involved lane-splitting. The study notes it's legal to "lane-split" in California, although a proposed new law in the state aims to regulate the practice.

"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 study says, citing data on head, torso, and extremity injuries.

The research even suggests that motorcyclists who lane-split are safer drivers than those who don't. According to the data, lane-splitters were injured much less frequently during their collisions compared to non-lane-splitters. As for the people who weave between lanes, the data showed that they tend to use better helmets, travel at slower speeds, and refrain from alcohol when riding.

But which bikes are most likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident? The study says that a quarter of the 5,969 accidents involved Harley-Davidson bikes, followed by Honda and Yamaha. Almost 20 percent of riders were not properly licensed at the time of the crash. The study also concedes there are certain risks to lane-splitting, including uneven pavement, washy lane markings, and cars trying to switch lanes and not watching for fast lane-splitting motorcyclists.

Although lane-splitting may be safer than we originally thought, the practice still irks people. Among drivers of passenger vehicles, 61 percent "somewhat" or "strongly" disapprove of the practice. Do you think lane-splitting is safe and effective? Click here for the full study, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: UC Berkeley News Center

Photo Source: Nathan Bittinger via Flickr

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