How to Share the Road With Motorcycles

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How to Share the Road With Motorcycles (Photo: @voss via Twenty20)
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.
State Helmet Law
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
Illinois None
Indiana Helmets required for riders under 18 years old
Iowa None
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
one year
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
insurance
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 Hampshire None
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.