In our last article on our Nevada personal injury and automobile accident blog, we looked at some recent data on motorcycle fatalities and motorcycle accidents nationwide. One issue with looking at national-level data is that it does not take into account the different policies in place — both official and unofficial — in each state. One practice getting attention is known as “lane splitting,” which some motorcycle drivers attempt during slow traffic.
Take Nevada for example. Our state laws require all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear motorcycle helmets. In some other states, helmets are only required for drivers or passengers under 18 or 21 years of age; some states have no helmet laws at all.
On the other hand, Nevada law does not require motorcycle drivers to wear any other protective gear such as leathers. And driving laws in Nevada only require drivers to carry $15,000 in motor vehicle liability insurance. That means that if you are driving your motorcycle and are hit by a driver in a car, the driver may have as little as $15,000 to cover all of your likely expenses: intensive medical care, pain and suffering, and repair/replacement of your bike.
We cannot control the actions of others, and for the time being we are bound by the laws that are in place. But what we can do as motorcycle drivers in order to reduce the likelihood of seeing ourselves and our fellow bikers hurt in motorcycle accidents is to eliminate the practice of lane splitting. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have done it: traffic is slow, perhaps in a complete stop-and-go jam, and a motorcycle driver creates an extra lane between two lanes of automobile traffic to get ahead of the line.
Proponents of the policy argue that it doesn’t harm anyone else, and in some cases it is a form of defensive driving — car drivers focus on each other in tight traffic, sometimes rendering a motorcycle invisible. But critics of the practice note that it is unpredictable and frequently results in motorcycle collisions when bikers are hit by cars abruptly changing lanes or even opening car doors in stopped traffic.
A columnist for the Sacramento Bee recently pointed out that California is the only state that has not banned the practice, but it also does not specifically permit lane splitting. Lane splitting is illegal in Clark County (indeed, in all of Northern and Southern Nevada) under Nevada Revised Statute 486.351. That means that — even if “everyone does it,” even if traffic was stopped — if you are involved in a motorcycle accident when you were driving between two lanes of traffic, you will have a harder time recovering damages because you were in violation of a driving law.
The best thing Southern Nevada motorcycle drivers can do is to follow all driving laws diligently and to use their full attention and caution while driving. When the unexpected happens and you are involved in a motorcycle accident, call us before you call your insurance company for a free consultation.
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