Southern California’s temperate climate and scenic vistas mean that motorcyclists regularly hit the streets all throughout the year. Even so, there are ebbs and flows in the traffic; now that summer is here, the numbers of motorcycles will likely rise. It’s a good time for a reminder about some key information so that everyone who takes to the road for a joyful ride makes it home safely.
California has a comprehensive helmet law that covers both riders and passengers, but there are still people who climb on their motorcycle without their all-important headgear. Not only could this potentially cost you a few hundred bucks if you get a ticket, but you could also be risking your life as well. Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that helmets reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle accident by 37%, and they reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury by 69%.
In addition to a well-fitting helmet, riders should also wear:
- Something brightly colored to increase visibility to fellow motorists
- Protective eyewear
- Snug-fitting gloves that allow full grip of the handlebars
- A long-sleeved jacket and pants made of leather or another durable material to prevent “road rash” in the event of a crash
- Boots or other similar shoes that fully encase and protect the feet
A primer on lane splitting
Lane splitting has been legal in California for years now. That said, it is controversial, and many safety advocates would prefer if the practice were still against the law. It is considered an advanced technique, and, as such, it should only be attempted by practiced riders.
Lane splitting allows for a motorcyclist to carefully make his or her way between two lanes of slowed or stopped traffic instead of having to idle or wait alongside other vehicles. Experienced motorcyclists wishing to try it should remember this:
- Maintain a safe speed
- Don’t linger between vehicles, especially those with large blind spots like commercial trucks, buses, or motor homes/RVs
- Don’t ride on the shoulder (that isn’t lane splitting, it’s just illegal)
- Use your high-beam headlights to increase visibility
- Try to stay in the left lanes of traffic, as lane splitting is usually safer over there
Drivers who find themselves alongside lane-splitting motorcyclists can do their part as well. For example, attempting to stop an advancing motorcycle by opening a door in front of them is illegal, and it could easily result in a catastrophic accident. Furthermore, check your blind spots before switching lanes, use your turn signal beforehand, and stay to the left of your lane if you are in the left-most lanes of traffic.