Motorcycle Laws by State Overview
Motorcycle laws can vary by state. If you are going to be riding your bike across the country or in different states than your home state, you will need to know the motorcycle laws of each state to prevent being ticketed for breaking rules you were unaware of.
It is important to remember that motorcycle laws are made with the safety of cars and motorcyclists in mind, as well as their passengers. You should always take the motorcycle laws of each state seriously when you are riding your bike on state roads.
There are a variety of areas of focus for motorcycle safety and we will look at those now.
Helmet and Safety Laws
Some states require that you wear a helmet when you are riding, but others do not. This can be a thorny issue when you are riding across the US and do not have to wear a helmet in your home state. Each state handles the rules about helmets for passengers on your bike differently as well.
In states like Idaho, you only have to wear a helmet if you are under 18 years of age. This can lead to all kinds of confusion if you are traveling on your bike, but it is a good rule of thumb to always have a helmet for you and your passengers when you ride your bike.
Running Lights Laws
Daylight headlight use is becoming increasingly enforced by law in most states. This makes your bike more visible to other drivers and motorcyclists on the road. Eighteen states already require that you have your headlight on when you are riding your bike. You may even be required in some states to retrofit a bright headlight to your bike if the existing one on your bike is too dim or there is not one installed.
The laws that govern the behavior of motorcyclists can also vary per state. These laws govern things like lane splitting and lane sharing. Riding laws also govern the max passing speeds of bikes in passing lanes and traffic.
There are many ways that you might run afoul of riding laws in a different state than your home state. You should always be aware of the penalties for these mistakes and be aware of following the rules for any state that you visit.
In every state, it is illegal to drive over the speed limit and to do tricks and other dangerous behaviors while you are riding your bike. It is also always illegal to get into altercations with drivers on the road or other motorcyclists or to race cars or other bikes.
There are never going to be any laws in any state which advocate the use of your bike to break speed limits or safety laws that apply to everyone else on the road. You will always have to obey traffic signals and speed signs as well as heed traffic directions of other kinds.
Lane Splitting and Lane Sharing
Lane splitting is always very controversial and it is not allowed in some states. Lane splitting is when you ride your bike through slow-moving traffic by riding between lanes. It is legal in California, but the matter is up for debate. In many states this is not allowed for motorcyclists.
Lane sharing is when two motorcycles share the same lane on the road as they travel. This is also not legal in every state and you will need to know the rules for each kind of lane use with your bike before you head out on a trip that will take you into other states. Lane sharing might sometimes be ignored by officers who see it going on, but if it is leading to an unsafe condition on the road, it will lead to a ticket in any state.
Motorcycle Passenger Laws
This is one of the most difficult areas to follow the law when you are traversing many states. There are often quite unique passenger laws per state as far as required equipment and allowable age for passengers. In Hawaii, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, you cannot have a passenger with you that is younger than five years of age.
Helmets and other gear for your passenger might be required in some states and not in others. It is always advisable that your passengers wear full safety gear as well as a helmet every time they get on your bike with you. There is no exchange for this gear in the event of an accident, for both you and your passenger.
Motorcycle Eye Protection Laws
Just like helmets and other safety equipment, some states require eye protection while others do not. Goggles or a visor can go a long way toward improving your ability to see in rain or when there are lots of bugs in the air, and the wind will not cause you to squint when you are wearing goggles.
This rule can pose a challenge for those who wear glasses and it can be hard to fit goggles to your face with certain helmets. In some states the eye protection can be ignored if you have a windshield on your bike. These rules are often very specific and you should review them carefully if you are going to be traveling to states that are new to you.
Motorcycle Noise Laws
Many motorcyclists enjoy modifying their bikes to make them noisier. This can be an issue with the laws in certain states which require that bikes have their OEM exhaust and are quieter than a certain decibel level when they are ridden. Some states require that you have mufflers on your bike without a cut-out or bypass added as well.
This is particularly true if you are riding your bike in neighborhoods or other places along the freeway that might cause resonance or distraction to other drivers and motorcyclists. Motorcycle exhaust noise can impinge on the peace of neighborhoods as well as the attention of drivers on the road.
Motorcycle Safety is Important
All of the laws that a state has in place for motorcyclists are intended to keep everyone on the road safe. There is inherent risk associated with riding a motorcycle when compared to a car, which means that motorcyclists are held to a very high standard for safety precautions and considerations when compared to people driving cars.
It is always a good idea to wear a helmet and full safety gear, no matter what the rules of your state. Flip flops and ball caps will not protect your body from significant harm if you suffer an accident while you are riding and you cannot protect your passengers from these injuries if they are not in safety gear as well.
Prevent Breaking Laws by Being Safe
If you do not want to have to worry about all of the rules and regulations of each state related to motorcycle riding and operation, just air on the side of conservative behavior and conservative choices. Always wear full safety gear and drive in your lane at the speed limit. Make sure that your bike is not overly noisy or missing safety equipment like side-view mirrors.
Being safe on your bike can make your riding experience enjoyable and less risky for you as well as everyone else on the road.