Motorcycle lane splitting has been a controversial and confusing subject for years, so the California Office of Traffic Safety decided to find out about the public perception of lane splitting.
Is lane splitting legal for motorcyclists in California?
The frequencies of responses is shown in Table 7, with 52.9% of all vehicle drivers stating “yes”, that lane splitting for motorcycles on freeways is legal, while 36.7% did not think it to be legal, 9.8% of all respondents did not know.
The key to legal lane splitting for motorcycle riders is doing so in a safe and prudent manner, being cognizant of overall traffic speeds, speed differences, spacing and lane changing patterns of surrounding traffic. Riding too fast is one of the most common things that motorcyclists do to make lane splitting unsafe.
Since lane splitting is legal in California, why do so few car and truck drivers not know that lane splitting is legal?
That was not one of the questions.
For some reason, the survey did not include a question along the lines of, Why do you mistakenly assume that lane splitting is illegal? Maybe next time. Part of this has been addressed by Dunning and Kruger, but that is a topic for another time.
The survey did ask if drivers approve of motorcycles splitting lanes and asked for the reason(s) for that approval/disapproval.
The answers are interesting. The people who disapprove of motorcycles splitting lanes overwhelmingly believe think that lane splitting is unsafe. There does not appear to have been an attempt to determine how common the perception of lane splitting as unsafe is among those who mistakenly believe that lane splitting is illegal.
The other common objections mostly have to do with inattention and/or incompetence of the car/truck driver. – It startles/surprises/scares me and might cause me to crash.
Is there any information about the relative frequencies of lane splitting crashes vs. crashes while stopped in traffic?
Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study. This is far from definitive, but lane splitting is legal in 4 of the 5 participating countries. If a stopped motorcycle is 7 times more likely to be involved in a collision, is it wise to sit in traffic, or is it wiser to split lanes?
What about the outcome of these collisions?
The police officer was splitting lanes between the fast and carpool lanes when a Toyota Carolla crossed the double yellow line to exit the carpool, striking the officer and throwing him from his motorcycle.
This would probably produce a much better outcome.
Clearly, this is safer than lane splitting crashes.
Why would a driver intentionally drive a lethal weapon at a motorcyclist?
If lane splitting is unsafe (in their opinion) it becomes safer by driving at the motorcyclist?
It is OK to be upset with motorcyclists for using a more efficient form of transport? Should we expect these drivers to try to block trains and planes as well? Is it really unfair for a motorcyclist to get ahead of traffic that is less practical and less efficient? Is it also unfair that doctors make more than paramedics? Aren't these the same rocket scientists who do not pull over for ambulances, because they are more important than everyone else?
If lane splitting might cause me to have an accident, how is driving at a motorcyclist making that any less likely?
Currently, lane splitting is only legal or tolerated in Oregon, Washington State, California and now, Arizona, so be sure to check out your state’s official policy on the practice before trying it yourself.
 Survey Shows What Riders and Drivers Think of Motorcycle ‘Lane Splitting’ – “Share the Road” is the Message During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
California Office of Traffic Safety
May 3, 2012
Press Release in PDF format
Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
- tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
- fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
- fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
- recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
 Excerpt from Table 5.7: PTW pre-crash motion prior to precipitating event
MAIDS (Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study) Final Report
European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers
Free Full Text Download in PDF format