Motorcycle Laws

Traffic laws can be a source of stress for any motorist. They vary from state-to-state or even zone-to-zone, and can create stress and unsafe conditions if you and surrounding drivers aren’t aware of them. To ride safely, it is important to be up on motorcycle riding laws in your state, and knowing the different ones as you travel.

If you’re looking to brush up on the motorcycle rules of the road, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll take a look at some of the basic motorcycle laws to keep you up to date.

Common Motorcycle Law Differences

When looking to get your motorcycle license or learn about the proper laws for your state, there will be no better source than your state’s motorcycle handbook. However, these often contain just the fundamental laws and not how to apply them using common sense. Additionally, a lot of laws have nuance state-to-state, and we understand it probably isn’t realistic to read a DMV handbook before traveling from Arizona to California, for example. With that in mind, here are some common motorcycle riding rules that vary by region.

motorcycle laws
  • Wearing a Helmet: While this is a frequent question and conversation, we will start with a biased answer- always wear a helmet while riding. This eliminates legal ambiguity and is easily the best way to stay safe while riding. However, for the sake of information, we are including that there are various age restrictions for younger riders in all states, and most of the West Coast fully requires a helmet. Arizona, Texas, and Florida are among prominent riding states that don’t have full restrictions, but we still urge riders in those states to cover up.
  • Lane Splitting: This is one that comes up commonly, and has one of the easiest answers. Lane splitting is only fully legal in California. There is 2-lane traffic passing available in Utah, and some states do not specifically mention it in their legal verbiage, but other than that, this is technically an illegal move. This means that on paper, we cannot be proponents of it, but studies have shown that lane-splitting riders are significantly less likely to be rear-ended than those who don’t. Studies like this have led to states like Oregon and Washington considering legalizing it, but for now, stick to lane splitting only in California.
  • Passenger and Sidecar Regulations: There are some notable distinctions here. Texas, Washington, Arkansas and Louisiana do not allow passengers under 8 years old. Independent of this, every state requires young riders to have protective gear. As always, we recommend adhering to All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) as a standard for you and your riders.

    Sidecar regulations will vary by state and bike. In some states, if your motorcycle is always a 3-wheeled vehicle or has a fully attached side car, you actually do not need an M-1 endorsement and can ride with just a class C. Again, this would not be our recommendation, but it is the law. Similarly, all passengers still must comply with gear rules. 
  • Insurance Coverage: Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington are the only states that do not require specific motorcycle insurance. Other states require specific coverage, and we recommend it in almost all circumstances.

    As motorcycle accident legal specialists, we at Law Tigers recommend extensive motorcycle coverage no matter what circumstance you’re in. The thrill of riding can be ruined by a technicality if you don’t have proper comprehensive coverage for you and your bike. We don’t want to be sticklers; we just want to make sure everyone we care about can ride stress-free.
  • Turn Signal Laws: These will fall under the category of mixed in legal terms, but required in common sense terms. In fact, while over 60 percent of states (including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and Illinois) do not require turn signals, and others have manufacture-date contingencies. We would advise using them, especially if you are in dense traffic.

    One of the best rules of the road that isn’t in a handbook is to be considerate of your fellow drivers. We would like to believe that with training, we can avoid disaster because we are properly skilled and trained. However, each variable that becomes more difficult for other drivers on the road (such as people not using turn signals) creates increased risk for the overall environment of that drive.
  • Training Courses and Re-Education: While most states just require formal training to get your M1 or M2 permit and license, certain territories require re-education and updated learning. Additionally, the permit age, license age, and time periods in order to obtain each of these things will vary. 15 years old is the typical minimum for either permit, with 16 being the age of license availability, but as always, check with your state handbook.
motorcycle laws
  • Other Laws to Consider: Without writing a comprehensive handbook ourselves, here are some common laws you should keep in mind. Most states require or have rulings on:
    • Wheelie Laws: There are rules to these awesome maneuvers outside of just physics. We advise respecting both sets.
    • Eye Protection Laws: Highly recommended under ATGATT compliance, but it’s good to know when it’s absolutely required
    • Mirror Laws: Most states require an attached mirror at this point in time, and it will serve you well for city or highway driving.
    • Speeding, DUI, other common vehicle laws: Riding is supposed to be fun, and let you have the thrill of a fast-moving vehicle. You still need to consider the rules of the road for others around you, and don’t mess around with intoxicants and riding.  
    • Shoulder and Road Marking Laws for Motorcycles: Some states, including Hawaii, have allowed two-wheel motorcycles on paved shoulders. Others, like Virginia, have kept them exempt. As always, you should be looking out for your safety and legality when considering lane-specific moves.  

All these laws will become second nature in your state as you practice responsible riding. We realize that it is impossible to track them all in real time, especially if you take inter-state or cross country rides often, so we hope this guide has given you reliable resources to look up any law you need to be aware of.

New call-to-action

Be Protected When Your Ride with Law Tigers

Law Tigers looks out for our riders before, during, and after each ride by championing rider education, providing legal support, and supporting the community. After all, riding is in our blood. Get our free Rider Benefit Card so you always have help available if you need it.