Due to the smaller size of a motorcycle, you might find them harder to see while driving. In addition, motorcycles lack many of the safety features of cars, including seat belts and airbags, leaving motorcycle riders more at risk in an accident. Because of this, you should observe special rules while driving around motorcycle riders.
What are the laws in regards to motorcycles?
Motorcycle drivers must observe the same laws as every other driver while on roadways across the U.S. But, motorcycle rides most also wear an approved helmet in many states. According to GHSA.org, states that require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet include the following:
|Helmet Laws Across the U.S.|
|Alabama||Universal helmet law|
|Alaska||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old/
Passengers must wear helmets
|Arizona||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Arkansas||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old|
|California||Universal helmet law|
|Colorado||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Connecticut||Helmets required for riders under 17 years old|
|Delaware||Helmets required for riders under 19 years old|
|D.C.||Universal helmet law|
|Florida||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old or
if riders have less than $10,000 medical coverage
for injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident
|Georgia||Universal helmet law|
|Hawaii||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Idaho||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Indiana||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Kansas||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Kentucky||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old,
drivers who have had a license for less than one
year, or who have no medical insurance
|Louisiana||Universal helmet law|
|Maine||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old
or drivers who have had a license for less than
|Maryland||Universal helmet law|
|Massachusetts||Universal helmet law|
|Michigan||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old or
for riders and passengers who have no medical
|Minnesota||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Mississippi||Universal helmet law|
|Missouri||Universal helmet law|
|Montana||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Nebraska||Universal helmet law|
|Nevada||Universal helmet law|
|New Jersey||Universal helmet law|
|New Mexico||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|New York||Universal helmet law|
|North Carolina||Universal helmet law|
|North Dakota||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old
and passengers if driver younger than 18 years old
|Ohio||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old
or licensed for less than a year/passengers must
wear a helmet if driver required to wear one
|Oklahoma||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Oregon||Universal helmet law|
|Pennsylvania||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old
or who have had a license for less than two years/
drivers can complete a safety course to forego
wearing a helmet
|Rhode Island||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old or
who have had a license for less than one year/all
passengers must wear a helmet
|South Carolina||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old|
|South Dakota||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
|Tennessee||Universal helmet law|
|Texas||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old,
those who have not completed a safety course,
or who have no medical insurance
|Utah||Helmets required for riders under 21 years old|
|Vermont||Universal helmet law|
|Virginia||Universal helmet law|
|Washington||Universal helmet law|
|West Virginia||Universal helmet law|
|Wisconsin||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old
or who have an instructional permit
|Wyoming||Helmets required for riders under 18 years old|
How to share the road with motorcycles
When driving on the road, always remain aware of the other vehicles around you, especially motorcycles. With their low profile, you might have a hard time seeing a motorcycle when driving, which makes following the guidelines below even more important.
- Check mirrors and blind spots: Before changing lanes, make sure to check your mirrors and blind spots. The small size of a motorcycle means that you could easily miss them passing you.
To help prevent this, always signal your intentions when switching lanes or turning, even if you think there are no other vehicles around you.
- Large vehicles: If you drive a large vehicle, such as a truck or van, be even more cautious while driving. The increased size of the blind spot of such vehicles makes it even more crucial that you check your mirrors thoroughly before turning or switching lanes. And, make sure to use your signal.
- Yield properly: Just like a car, drivers must yield to motorcycles and not pass them in the same lane. This includes at on-ramps or anywhere else where you can expect to encounter motorcycles on the road.
- Watch for signals: If you come up on a motorcycle that has on its turn signal, proceed with caution. Unlike a car, a motorcycle turn signal does not automatically go off once they make a turn.
- Show caution when following or passing: Also, unlike cars, motorcycles can decelerate without using the brakes, using the throttle instead.
This means that a motorcycle can slow without the brake light even coming on. Because of this, you should give a little extra distance between your car and a motorcycle ahead, with three to four seconds being the norm.
Motorcycles and lane splitting
Lane splitting represents a controversial practice of sharing the road between motorcycles and other vehicles. Lane splitting represents the practice of motorcycles to split lanes of traffic, driving between vehicles where lane size allows it.
Currently, California is the only state in the U.S. to allow lane splitting, though states such as Texas, Arizona, Oregon, and others have tried to legalize the practice in the past without success.
General guidelines for proper motorcycle lane splitting in California include:
- Motorcycles should keep to speeds of no more than 10 MPH faster than surrounding traffic.
- Motorcycles should avoid lane splitting when traffic is flowing faster than 30 MPH.
- Motorcycles should try to split the number one and two lanes of traffic for improved safety.
You can share the road safely with motorcycles by remaining cautious and looking fully before turning or changing lanes. You also need to observe special rules when following a motorcycle, and keep in mind the practice of lane splitting if driving in California.