Persons who operate motor vehicles, all kinds of vehicles such as sedans, pickups, coupes, SUVs, minivans and motorcycles, all share public roads and many take advantage of the protection of vehicle insurance. While it helps both individuals and society as a whole to have insurance, its protection is still limited. It can pay to repair or replace vehicles, but it can’t always restore injured persons to complete health. It can handle the costs related to burials, but that’s no solace to those who have lost a loved one to accidents. It is best to try to implement behaviors that minimize or eliminate accidents. Driver behavior is critically important, particularly the practice of lane splitting or stripe riding.
In many areas, traffic can become very congested. Motorcyclists may choose to take advantage of the compact size of their vehicles by riding in the areas between road and highway traffic lanes. While that may be an effective way for cycle riders to defeat frustrating traffic, it’s also dangerous. The practice in the U.S. is being imported as it is much more common in other countries that face higher levels of congestion as well as a higher number of motorcycles.
Lane splitting offers a number of positives:
- It can reduce traffic congestion
- It allows motorcycles to keep their air-cooled engines from stalling
- It helps cycle riders to avoid road surface irregularities such as potholes and uneven surfaces
- It reduces incidents of cycles being rear-ended, a dangerous source of cyclist injuries
Of course, there are also significant negatives:
- It creates a speed differential between cycles and other, larger vehicles
- It can sometimes stir hostile, defensive tactics from drivers of other types of vehicles
- It can startle drivers who don’t expect cycles moving past them, invading their lanes
A number of states permit limited forms of lane splitting. In one university study, it was discovered that less than 20% of motorcycle riders regularly split lanes. It also discovered that those who did split lanes tended to do so during commuting, wore better helmets and were less likely to operate their cycles while being impaired. As the practice becomes more popular, it will be increasingly important to split lanes in a safe manner and to increase the awareness of other vehicle operators. Sadly, many operators of larger vehicles often fail to consider motorcycles as they drive. Greater awareness of this cycling tactic is key to creating driver habits that recognize the need to look out for motorcycles and to take greater care by maintaining longer following distances and watching for motorcycles when changing lanes, braking and making turns. Insurance can be effective in dealing with the consequences of accidents, but it is far more effective when accompanied by driver awareness that helps reduce or eliminate accidents from occurring.