BARSTOW • Guidelines for lane splitting, a motorcyclist maneuver not legal in any other state but California, have been posted for the first time on the California Highway Patrol's website.
Motorcyclists and drivers alike should view them as safety tips for sharing the road, according to Sgt. Mark Pope, statewide coordinator for the CHP's California Motorcyclists Safety Program.
"The purpose (of posting guidelines) is to improve public safety by promoting public awareness," Pope said.
The need to bolster awareness comes on the heels of a survey administered by the California Office of Traffic Safety last year. Thirty-seven percent of 733 drivers surveyed were unaware lane splitting was legal. Seven percent had even admitted to trying to prevent a motorcycle from maneuvering past them.
The "educational push," as Pope called it, is also one response to preliminary numbers that show a 20 percent increase in motorcycle-related deaths from 2011 to 2012, he said.
One tip, according to the guidelines, is for "competent enough" riders not to travel faster than 10 miles per hour more than traffic — something 33.8 percent of those surveyed reported they do.
Dave Finnerty, the general manager of Victorville Harley-Davidson, first reviewed the guidelines a few days ago and found what he read reasonable.
"I think the biggest thing now is there's an actual guideline. It's not subjective," he said. "They're common sense (tips)."
Finnerty said he believes riding between lanes is safer for motorcyclists such as himself, where riders can be more in control of their own safety. A major concern of his is being rear-ended by traffic.
"As motorcyclists, we're a little more vulnerable," he said. "Raising awareness is important."
Nathan Robinson, general manager at Barstow Motorcycle Center, thinks lane splitting is unsafe.
"We've had customers who've had car doors opened on them," he said. Even within pronounced safety guidelines, he said, "people will push the envelope."
Law enforcement hopes that won't be the case. For some time, the CHP website has noted lane splitting was legal when done in a safe and prudent manner by experienced riders, but the problem was "no effort had been made before to define safe and prudent," Pope explained.
The guidelines, developed in conjunction with traffic safety stakeholders, motorcycle safety experts and other law enforcement, can also be found on the California OTS website. In May, Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month will bring forth an effort to reinforce these guidelines, Pope said.
The CHP is currently working on a related 30-second PSA TV spot, according to Pope.
To review the lane splitting guidelines, visit www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitting.html.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.