Motorcycle Laws FAQ

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Do I Have to Wear a Helmet When I Ride?

This depends on state laws. Currently, 19 states have laws that require all motorcyclists to wear motorcycle helmets when riding. Other states require only some motorcyclists to wear helmets (usually, this is based on the rider’s age). Only three states have no motorcycle helmet laws in place, which are:  Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

If your state requires you to wear a helmet, you should follow the law at all costs, even for “weekend” or recreational rides. If you don’t follow state laws, it could drastically reduce your ability to recover damages in the event of a motorcycle accident. Even if your state doesn’t require the use of helmets, it’s a good idea to use one for your own safety.

Even if your state doesn’t require the use of helmets, it’s a good idea to use one for your own safety.

How Do I Know If My Helmet Is Acceptable Under State law?

When shopping for a motorcycle helmet, look for a label put out by the Department of Transportation, which reads “DOT”. This means that the helmet meets federal standards for safety and will be acceptable. Additional safety ratings, such as “Snell”, may not be required, but indicate further testing and approval on a product that could save your life. 

What Is “Lane Splitting” and Is It Legal?

Lane splitting is the practice of riding in between lanes or vehicles. This usually happens where there is a large amount of traffic and the rider squeezes between lanes, effectively “splitting” traffic. Many motorists believe riding in between lanes while traffic is moving quickly can be dangerous, as it creates blind spots that car drivers may not be accustomed to. However, studies indicate that motorcycle accidents and fatalities are significantly reduced by lane splitting when traffic is heavier and slow moving, as the motorcyclist is more visible to motorists and able to see and react to upcoming traffic patters and hazards.

Lane splitting is technically not legal or illegal, although it is only permitted in California. Other states like New Mexico also do not mention lane splitting by name in their vehicle codes, but they may prohibit practices that are similar to lane splitting, Lane-splitting is also called:

It is important to note that in 2012, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued a statement regarding the department’s policy on lane splitting. CHP finds lane splitting permissible, so long as it is done in a safe and prudent manner. Therefore, it is likely that failing to do so may lead to steeper punishments than your average speeding ticket.

What If I’ve Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident or Crash?

If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident or crash, you should report the incident to police, even if the accident happened as a result of you engaging in trick riding. The police can then make a report of the incident, which can be used in court as evidence in the event that a lawsuit is filed. You should also seek medical attention immediately, as any delays may complicate the circumstances.

What Does “Comparative Negligence" Mean?

Some states have comparative negligence laws, where as others use a system known as contributory negligence. Comparative negligence laws may reduce the amount of damages that a person can recover from a motorcycle accident lawsuit. Such laws state that if the motorcycle driver was also negligent in the accident, or somehow contributed to their own injuries, their damages award will be reduced accordingly.

Examples of when the motorcyclist may have contributed to their own injuries are where the motorcycle was speeding, disobeyed traffic laws, “popping a wheelie” or showboating, they failed to signal, or did not maintain working brake lights. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Understanding Motorcycle Laws?

Motorcycle laws can be very different from state to state. If you have any questions, concerns, or legal disputes involving motorcycle laws, you should contact a lawyer immediately. A qualified personal injury lawyer can help explain how the laws in your area affect your driving privileges. Your lawyer will also be able to represent you in court if you need to file a lawsuit to recover your losses. 

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Last Modified: 10-28-2015 10:15 AM PDT

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