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What You Can Do to Protect Yourself as a Motorcyclist in California
As California’s motorcycle laws are fairly different to those of other states and countries, it’s worth taking a detailed look at how cyclists can protect themselves on Californian roads specifically.
The most obvious difference when it comes to California motorcycle law versus that of other states is that lane splitting is legal here in California. While it may be permitted in a couple other states to white-line between two lanes of stopped traffic in certain circumstances, California allows motorcyclists to actually overtake moving vehicles in the same lane. Lane splitting might be great for getting your commute down to a fraction of the time you’d spend on the road if you commuted by car, but it does come with its own set of risks. See our lane splitting page for more information.
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While there are plenty of safety equipment options that you can add onto your bike when purchasing a new ride, a lot of motorcycle safety relies on rider behavior. Unlike modern cars, where so much of the guesswork is taken out of road safety for the driver and passengers, even the most up-to-date motorcycle models still rely a lot on user safety. No matter how good your ABS might be, all the technology in the world isn’t going to help if you take corners at dangerous speeds. It’s therefore essential to practice good road safety as advised by the California Highway Patrol. Their safety tips include advice on avoiding blind spots and splitting between the far left lanes rather than the far right, as these tend to be safer. They also remind drivers that sitting on the shoulder is illegal as it is not considered lane splitting.
No matter how safely you use the road, it’s still essential to wear good-quality protective clothing when riding a motorcycle out on California’s roads. Good-quality leather pants and jackets will offer much greater protection from “road rash” than even the most expensive pair of specialist biker jeans. Even though wearing so much dense, heavy leather can feel like overkill in the Golden State’s glorious summers, the aim is to give the road as much material to burn through as possible before it gets to your skin and even your muscle tissue. It’s also a good idea to wear bright colors and ideally add some reflective elements to your motorcycle leathers, helmet or other gear. During twilight hours or if smoke from wildfires is causing poor visibility, it’s easy for a car driver to miss a motorcyclist dressed all in black on a black bike as they glance in their wing mirror to check that the coast is clear for them to change lanes. If you’re wearing neon yellow, you will stand out against the asphalt and really catch the eye. Knee and elbow pads are usually available with reflective designs to instantly increase your road safety.
California is among the strictest states when it comes to mandatory helmet wearing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of injury by around half on average over a 5-year period. And other studies have shown that helmet use almost universally has a positive impact on injury and fatality rates around the world. To ensure you comply with state laws, make sure to wear a DOT-compliant helmet at all times. It may harm your personal injury case if you fail to do so.
Many motorcyclists love to ride on the open road because of the sense of freedom, but a motorbike ride is not a time to turn off and relax. There is so much for the biker to consider before making any move, but especially before lane splitting. You should go through a mental checklist each time you make any such maneuver:
- Is the lane wide enough?
- What condition is the road in?
- Are weather conditions impacting the road?
- Could lighting impact my visibility, e.g. bright sun blinding other road users?
- Am I passing through another vehicle’s blind spot?
- Am I traveling at a safe speed for this maneuver?
- Am I visible enough?
No matter how safely you use California’s roads as a motorcyclist, we know that accidents can still happen. Scranton Law is your local law firm for motorcycle accidents on Californian roads. As motorbike enthusiasts ourselves, we’re no strangers to biking-related injuries ranging from a few bruises to trauma requiring multiple surgeries. What’s more, we’re Californian born and bred so have years of experience in settling personal injury legal cases in your state. Your motorcycle accident personal injury case couldn’t be in better hands.