What is lane splitting, besides dangerous?
Take a look around; our communities are growing quickly and we can’t seem to stop it. With more people driving, our roads are becoming increasingly busy as well. Stop and go traffic is a common occurrence that many people are trying to bypass. Leaving early is a good way to reach your destination on time, but other road users are taking higher risks to not only themselves, but to the people they are passing.
Some motorcyclists, cyclists and moped riders are splitting the lane by driving between vehicles so they can get ahead of the traffic. I’ve watched this for years and warn my students that I’m teaching at Young Drivers of Canada why it’s important to routinely to check their mirrors. Knowing what’s coming up from behind you while driving gives you more information before you change lanes or open up your door after parking.
Now, to those drivers who have their side mirrors angled out from the side of their vehicle to reduce or try to illuminate their blind spots, that won’t work. The side mirror is angled out to see the next lane, but the lane splitter is actually traveling along the white lines separating the lanes, which is not always visible in the mirrors if set up that way. You’ll need to actually use your inside rear view mirror more regularly and look over your shoulder before opening your door after parking. To the drivers who have their side mirrors angled away from their vehicle, checking your rear view mirror more often while driving will also allow you to spot anyone who is lane splitting before they reach you…maybe.
To the drivers who actually feel that lane splitting is a good idea, think again. In heavy traffic, where this is usually done, most drivers won’t even think about someone driving between the lanes. How many times have you seen the traffic crawling along and will notice the occasional driver drift to the side of their lane to get a better view of what’s causing the congestion? If a lane splitter is there at that same moment – wham! Lane splitters are also at risk passing parked vehicles and vehicles in the left lane at the same time. Drivers who open up their door after parking expecting plenty of room between their vehicle and the vehicles in the next lane can create a serious problem for lane splitters.
Lane splitting is illegal everywhere in Canada, but it’s not the case in parts of Europe in in some US states such as California. That’s doesn’t mean it’s the proper and safest thing to do. The motorcyclist may believe in their ability and it may lessen their risk of getting struck from behind, but considering we need to share the road with other road users, you never seem to know what drivers are thinking about before a sudden move happens. Studies that look at lane splitting only tend to look at the view of the motorcyclist, cyclist and moped user; not the drivers of other motor vehicles.
If the average driver suddenly notices a motorcyclist closer than normal beside them as they attempt to begin their lane change, a common reaction is to swerve back – not drift back smoothly – into their original lane. This can easily cause the driver to lose control of their vehicle and perhaps crash into another vehicle or lamp post causing injuring to themselves or someone else. Meanwhile, the motorcyclist isn’t touched.
So, should you lane split? An obvious answer from me is no. It’s about working as a team while driving and waiting your turn to be in a specific lane. Wait until the lane is clear and do a proper lane change. Working well with other road users is what our community really needs. Hopefully our opinion isn’t split on this.