Study: lane splitting is safer

Dailies -



A new study uses NHTSA and Governor’s Highway Safety Association data to spotlight the safety advantages of legal lane splitting. Similarly to the 1981 Hurt Report, motorcycle safety researcher Steve Guderian compares instances of rear-end collisions in California — where lane splitting is not expressly illegal — to states with similar riding seasons and numbers of riders. Predictably, a lower percentage motorcyclists are killed where they’re permitted to protect themselves. Rear enders are the most common road accident. Interestingly, Guderian goes on to explore the differences in collisions that occur while lane splitting to those that occur to vehicles within the traffic column. It’s one of the most powerful arguments for lane splitting we’ve seen.

Image: Rideit


Of course, if you’re going to lane split, you need to do so safely. We’re here to help: how to lane split.

Ride To Work via CMG Online

  • noone1569

    Whoa, this really helps my research in getting this passed in Indiana.

  • Kevin

    This reads and looks like a high school report. I’m all for lane-splitting and you don’t have to convince me to believe it’s safer, but I don’t this qualifies as actual research nor do I believe it’s anything close to a powerful argument for lane-splitting. The only thing this does is reaffirm those that already believe it’s the way to go.

    • BMW11GS

      I think we should give credit where credit is due. This is a concise and objective study that will hopefully begin a process that ends in more states legalizing lane splitting.

  • Brendan

    Thanks for the new desktop background.

    • Mark D

      Seriously. I lol’d.

      • Emmet


  • Jeff

    I can only hope that lane splitting becomes a federal law, similar to bikes being considered High occupancy vehicles.

  • Gene

    Anywhere we could read the actual study?

  • Dennis


    Some guy gets a B+ on his term paper and bloggers hail it as “a new study.” Don’t care if it’s been published. Don’t care who wrote it. Don’t care if it’s peer reviewed. Lots of people will read the blog post and not question it, and then they’ll tell their friends *science* proved lane splitting is safer. There was “a” study, after all! This is how all those weird diets get started.

    Just like everyone thinks the Hurt report proved lane splitting is safer too. Go read the Hurt report. It was conducted entirely in California, so how can it claim lane splitting is safer? Safer than what? You have to compare two things before you can say one is safer than the other.

    Guys, if your need to believe is that strong, then do you really need science? Just click your heels together and believe as hard as you can. That’s what everybody else does these days.

    • Kirill

      Someone’s bitter cause they can’t lane split

      • Gene

        Everybody can lane split, it’s just whether you get caught or not.

    • aristurtle

      Who gives a shit?

      Look, you’re approaching this wrong. We, and by “we” I mean the majority of the commentariat here, want lane splitting legalized so we don’t get a $$$ ticket for “illegal passing” when we’re trying to get through a traffic jam. If I valued safety over everything, I’d be in some oversized F-you-tility vehicle like the people on each side of me in said traffic jam.

      The study presents one of those nice, counter-intuitive results that media outlets (incl. this one) love to parrot over and over. Maybe if people say it enough times, we can legalize lane splitting in more states than California. Who gives a damn if the study is accurate? Nobody is lane splitting on a motorcycle because they’re “extremely safety-conscious.”

    • Wes Siler

      Statistically, you’re less likely to be involved in a fatal rear end collision in a state where lane splitting is legal than in a similar state where it is illegal. That’s the conclusion this analysis of NHTSA and GHSA data draws. The Hurt Report drew a similar conclusion using similar data.

      Anecdotaly, I feel much safer being in charge of my own safety rather than hoping some dumb bitch in a minivan doesn’t hit me.

      • Steven

        the prefered nomenclature is “suzy homemaker handing her kid a toy and little ashlyn sending texts.”

      • Martin

        “some bitch in a minivan…”

        Come on, Wes. I expect better than purely inflammatory sexism crap like that from HFL commenters in general, and you specifically.

        Having a little arm injury doesn’t entitle you to be a total asshole.

        • Ted

          I checked the rulebook. Yes, yes it does. It’s a free pass for six weeks of curmudgeon-dom.

          Also, having dodged a lot of dumb bitches in minivans, I think they’re a viable demographic.

          Guys in minivans are too ashamed to venture out much, so they’re mostly a non-entity.

      • Dennis

        Like I said, you really need to point your browser at the actual Hurt Report and read the thing. It clearly won’t do to go by what some guy told you it says.

        The Hurt Report was not a bunch of Excel graphs that some freshman made with data he found on a web site and downloaded. It was 1979. Harry Hurt went into the field with a notebook and a tape measure and collected new data on real accidents, then collected data on a random sample of real riders in the vicinity of the same accident and compared the two. It was nothing like the FARS data you find on the NHSTA web site; nothing like anything that existed before. Or since, other than the MAIDS Report in Europe, which also said nothing about lane splitting.

        Hurt and the MAIDS Report used control, or “exposure” data, and that’s what gave the Hurt Report the credibility to upend conventional wisdom. Like old timers who’d been riding for 20 years who believed you should never use the front brake. Hurt discovered that if you are taught to ride by your buddy your head will be filled with folklore and old wives’ tales and other misinformation. And he proved it, scientifically. Riders properly taught with facts instead of hearsay had fewer crashes.

        So you can scoff at science and believe what you heard from your buddy about what the Hurt Report says. You can believe some dude’s term paper because it reinforces what you wanted to believe anyway.

        Maybe it’s your job to be like that. Maybe you’ve got an agenda and you want to see policy changes and that requires a hefty dose of propaganda and bullshit. But it’s my job to mock you for it. I take that job seriously.

        • Campisi

          But it’s my job to mock you for it…

          … And it’s my job to point out to you and countless other high-school-level writers that quotations are necessary when referencing a document to back up your claim.

          So you can scoff at science and believe what you heard from your buddy about what the Hurt Report says.

          You’re not really my buddy, so I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.

          • Dennis

            Here is a quotation of the part of the Hurt Report where it uses NHSTA data to show that lane splitting is safer:

            That was easy.

  • Adrian

    In the comparison with European statistics we also need to be cognizant of the fact that cagers there expect, and are trained, to watch out for motorcycles and make room.
    Here in good ‘ol Texas, you’d be killed by some dipshit trying to block you, or as they often do — change lanes with no mirror/over the shoulder check, or signal indication. I could go on about all of the other in-cage distractions as well, but you all are painfully aware of that crap.

    The study is useful, insofar as starting a discussion. I hope it does.

    Riding on Texas freeways is a nightmare. I have noticed that California drivers tend to be more civilized. Maybe because lane splitting is allowed, drivers are more aware.

    My 3.14 cents.
    Peace to all.

    • Wes Siler

      Well, there is no comparison with Europan statistics. In my experience though, lane splitting has little to do with drivers. As a motorcyclist, you’re master of your own destiny, for good or bad.

      • Adrian

        We certainly are masters of our own destiny. I agree 100%.
        A comparison, limited as it may be, is on page 5 of the report. Or did I misunderstand your statement? These blogs can start wars over an ill-formed sentence, and I would not want that to happen. I have never professed to be an English major. ;-)

        • Wes Siler

          That’s more a reference to outside data than it is a comparison. I read that conclusion as an argument for legislation.

          Having lived and traveled all over the world, there’s really not that big a gap in driver skill anywhere. They all mostly suck, some behave a little better some of the time. It’s still distracted, underskilled, uninvolved nincompoops in 4,000 lbs cages.

          • Adrian

            I’ll accept that as an argument for legislation. It does need to gain traction and move forward while I’m still young enough to ride.

            I also read the excellent article on how to lane split. Too bad I can’t practice it here without being nailed by the revenue collectors. :-(

      • Tom

        im in london lane splitting (or filtering in the UK) all day long, i totally agree with your statement.

        people do try to block you here sometimes too often theres tell tell signs, you can just see it, by the way they are driving or what theyre driving or music theyre listening to.

        with people chainging lanes, this is our biggest thing to watch for, for obvious reasons! again, traffic has a habbit of doing things at certains times, you can tell if loads of people are going to pull out of one lane without looking while you could be lane splitting, like whenyou approach a traffic jam and people try to jump in a SLIGHTLY faster moving lane – sometimes it shocks me how quickly people can do it in their cages without a look or signal. When traffic is moving steady but slowly and most lanes are running a similar speed, lane splitting or filtering as we call it here is one of the best things about street biking!

        bottom line is you are as safe as your abiltiy to read the road and road users.

        I hope reat rest of the states can legalize lean splitting its a win win win situation.

  • pplassm

    Guderian? Heinz Guderian?


    Oh. It’s only Steve.

  • pplassm

    Legal “lane splitting”, “lane sharing”, or whatever you want to call it, will never garner wide acceptance.

    The cagers are too jealous, and there is too much resentment too alow it.

    I live in Europe for 10 years, and even there, where lane splitting is widely accepted, I ran into car drivers attempting to block passage.

    I will not live to see lane splitting allowed where I live.

    • pplassm

      Wow. i can’t spell tonight. Two Jack and Cokes will do that.

  • 1

    Yep, lane splitting will put you out of danger in heavy traffic.

    This might sound crazy but, i’d like to see car drivers have to take a competency and road rules test every 10 years too. So many cagers can’t even parallel park, or know what to do when an emergency vehicle is behind then, nor do to they consider motor cycle safety and some have a fucked attitude towards pedestrians.

    • Steven

      seriously. a lady’s son was killed as they jaywalked to get from the store to their apartment. (This is America, so the nearest crosswalk was like a mile away. So, either jaywalk, or walk a mile out and a mile back.) she faces more jail time than the drunk who was driving with three hit-and-runs on his record and who hit and ran.

      This country is psychotically quick to forgive people for weilding their three ton death machines negligently. If you handled a gun or knife that irresponsibly, you’d be put away for life.

  • jpenney

    Lane splitting just came up on a local sport bike forum with a solidly negative response :-/ Then some of them went on about how it’s not fair and everyone needs to wait their turn.


    • Paolo

      “everyone need to wait their turn” ? LOL

  • Brammofan

    I was about to send Mr. Guderian’s report to my state rep as part of my opening volley in the lane-sharing effort I intend to start when I realized that it has never been published in a reputable journal of record. No offense to Canadian Motorcycle Guide Online or to HFL, but this report has no value other than providing some basic information and references until it gets published. I used the google to find out who Steve Guderian is. At one time (maybe now?)he was with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. That’s good… that gives him some credibility. But until this gets the nod from something like NHTSA or some professional journal of traffic safety or even from the AMA, partisan though they may be, it’s not very helpful to the cause.

  • Chris

    can someone point out where they come up with the numbers on “rear-ended motorcycle accidents” I can not find it in the NHTSA or GHSA. I’m not sure how they come up with those numbers on that bar graph….