Motorcycle safety takes center stage in California

After spiking substantially in the previous two years, motorcycle fatalities dropped by 13 percent in California in 2013, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association. The California Highway Patrol recently kicked off a new safety campaign aimed at further reducing motorcycle deaths by improving education and awareness among motorcyclists and other drivers.

Lane splitting safety

Lane splitting, which is sometimes called lane sharing or white-lining, is the practice of riding a motorcycle between two occupied lanes of stopped or slower-moving traffic. Although lane-splitting is prohibited in many states, it is allowed in California when done in a safe and prudent manner.

In order to stay safe and reduce the risk of motorcycle accidents while lane splitting, the CHP recommends that motorcyclists avoid exceeding the speed of surrounding traffic by more than 10 miles per hour. By keeping speed differential below this level, lane-splitting motorcyclists can improve their ability to react to unexpected hazards, such as an abrupt lane change by another vehicle. For similar reasons, the CHP advises against lane splitting when traffic is moving at speeds of 30 mph or above.

Additional safety tips for motorcyclists and other drivers

In addition to the lane-splitting safety considerations outlined above, motorcyclists should also consider the following pointers to further reduce the risk of accidents:

  • Know your skill level and ride within it. Be aware that some maneuvers -including lane splitting - may exceed your ability level, even if others are able to execute them safely.
  • Ride defensively and do not assume that other drivers can see you.
  • Brake gradually rather than abruptly whenever possible, and use both the front and rear brakes.

Car drivers also have a responsibility for helping to prevent motorcycle accidents. To help minimize the chances of a motorcycle crash, other drivers should keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Assume that motorcycles are closer than they look.
  • Always check your blind spot for motorcyclists when turning or changing lanes; do not rely on your mirrors alone.
  • Leave extra space when following motorcycles, and be aware that their brake lights may not always activate when they slow down.

Compensation for motorcycle crash injuries

When motorcycle accidents lead to injuries or death, the injured person or that person's surviving dependents have the option of filing a claim for damages in civil court. Depending on the circumstances, they may have a right to receive financial compensation for the losses stemming from the crash, including medical bills and lost income.

To learn more about the legal options that are available if you or someone in your family has been involved in a motorcycle crash, contact a personal injury law firm in your area.