Lane-Splitting in Pennsylvania
With Move to Legalize Practice, Questions Arise About Safety
Chances are, if you’ve been in heavy traffic in one of Pennsylvania’s big cities, or out on the turnpike or other highway, you’ve seen a motorcyclist zoom between cars to move forward. It’s a practice known as “lane-splitting,” and it’s currently prohibited by Pennsylvania law.
Lane-splitting has been legal in many European countries for a while and was legalized in California in 2016. A number of other states are considering the practice, and some Pennsylvania law makers have expressed interest in legalizing it in the Keystone State, which has led to discussion about the safety of the maneuver.
Those in favor of lane-splitting contend that the practice reduces the risk of rear-end accidents and leads to less congestion overall. They point to the success of the practice abroad, as well as three specific studies:
- The Hurt Report (1981), out of California, suggests that lane-splitting can reduce the likelihood of rear-end collisions involving motorcycles.
- U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data indicates that rear-end crashes involving motorcycles are fewer in California than in comparable states where the practice is not expressly permitted, including Florida and Texas.
- A 2015 study by the University of California found that accidents and injuries are minimal when lane-splitting is done at speeds under 50 miles per hour, as long as the motorcyclist also does not exceed the surrounding rate of traffic by more than 15 miles per hour.
Opponents of lane-splitting argue that the research is minimal and less than conclusive. They worry that motorcyclists will be even less visible than they currently are, or that they could startle motorists and cause them to avert their eyes from the road.
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