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Motorcyclist was lane-splitting during fatal crash, CHP says

SAN MARCOS, Calif. -- A 31-year-old San Diego man was killed in a motorcycle crash on state Route 78 in San Marcos, authorities said Thursday.

California Highway Patrol says the crash happened just before 10 p.m. The motorcyclist was splitting lanes, headed eastbound on state Route 78 west of Barham Drive when his Harley Davidson slammed into the back of a 2002 Ford Explorer. The crash caused him to veer left and hit a center divider, where he was thrown into oncoming traffic.

“It does appear he was hit by a vehicle, if not more, but shortly after that collision, a four-vehicle collision occurred separately because of that crash," said CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt.

When the motorcyclist crashed, traffic was going 65 mph, according to a witness, so the reason for him splitting lanes was still being investigated, Bettencourt said.

“It’s legal now. I really do believe that it should be illegal because it’s just dangerous,” said Kaitlynn Embury of San Marcos.

In January, Assembly Bill 51 went into effect, defining “lane splitting” as driving a two-wheeled motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. The law also gives CHP the legal go-ahead to come up with educational guidelines that would ensure the safety of motorcyclists, drivers, and passengers. According to the law, CHP is to work with other agencies including the DMV, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Traffic Safety and a motorcycle organization focused on safety.

“We just need to make sure that everything is perfect before we send that out because we don’t want people to make a decision based upon our guidelines that could cost them their life,” Bettencourt said.

However, some drivers aren’t certain the guidelines will be followed.

“I don’t think so because you look at the guidelines of the speed limit. People don’t follow the speed limit,” said Jonathan Embury of San Marcos.

CHP is still investigating and said as of now, it’s unclear if drugs or alcohol played a factor in the crash. The people involved in the four-car crash reported no injuries.