Do Motorcycles Have To Follow The Same Laws As Cars?

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It can be a little confusing knowing all the rules motorcycles have to follow while on the road. The confusion associated with motorcycles and their laws can often be caused by their smaller size.

Getting a motorcycle license usually requires taking both a written and a driving test. The written test is helpful, but it still doesn’t cover every detail motorcyclists should know.

Do motorcycles have to follow the same laws as cars? In general, motorcycles are required to follow the same laws as cars. Motorcycles are considered to be a motor vehicle and therefore are profiled in the same category as cars. Though there are a few exceptions for them, motorcycles will be fined just as much if any traffic violations are made.

As a motorcyclist myself, I’ve often thought about specific rules pertaining to motorcycles. I’ve been able to do a thorough research and compile a helpful guide for any motorcyclist who may question the traffic laws they will have to follow.

The Rules Motorcycles Have To Abide By

The laws and rules of the road are made for the safety of everyone that’s one it. Though a lot of the rules are annoying and can sometimes give us tickets, it’s important to remember that they’re there for a reason.

Motorcycles are no exception to these rules. Some people tend to think that because they’re smaller vehicles, they’re exempt from a lot of the rules on the road. I’ve had this mindset myself before and quickly learned I was wrong when I got pulled over.

Let’s first talk about before the motorcycle even gets on the road. Motorcycles require registration and a license plate in order to be considered legal on the road. If a license plate is missing or the view of the license plate is hidden in any way, that’s a good candidate for a ticket.

Almost all states in the United States require that motorcycles have motorcycle insurance with a minimum of a liability plan. Motorcycle insurance is also usually required to register the motorcycle in the first place. Because motorcycles are more susceptible to accidents, having insurance is vital.

Motorcyclists will end up getting tickets for any traffic violations that occur, just like a driver in a car would get. This includes not using blinkers, running a stop sign, going over the speed, and being straight up obnoxious.

Motorcycles do have some capabilities that other vehicles don’t have such as speed, wheelies, and drifts. It can be tempting to use these capabilities on the road, but a rule of thumb to always stick to is this: if a car were to do this and a police officer saw, would they get pulled over? If the answer is ever yes while comparing it to your motorcycle, simply don’t do it. You’ll likely get a ticket if you’re caught.

Some Additional Laws For Motorcyclists

The law does recognize that motorcycles are a bit different from most vehicles, so there have been some additional rules and laws made to ensure the safety of the rider. There is a reason they have been made in the first place and most of the time it’s because someone previously got hurt in that way.

One big difference between motorcycles and cars is that motorcycle riders have to wear a helmet at some point in most states in the U.S. Some states require wearing a helmet when the rider is a certain age while other states require a helmet no matter how old they are.

Obviously, it’s wise to wear a helmet on a motorcycle whether or not the law requires it. Because let’s face it, some of the car drivers out there aren’t exactly the most aware of us motorcyclists so that helmet could really end up saving your life at some point.

Most cities have noise ordinances that everyone is required to follow. Motorcycles have specific laws prohibiting any loud noises they can possibly make. Some motorcyclists like to make adjustments to their exhaust and/or rev their engine really high that makes a loud noise. The law in most places prohibits this.

When you see a car with their headlights on during the day, you think they either accidentally turned them on or they’re at a funeral. This case is different for motorcycles because almost half the states in the U.S. require that motorcycles have their headlight on all day in some form. This is to ensure they are better seen by other drivers around them.

Some Exceptions For Motorcyclists

On the flip side, because the law recognizes motorcycles to be different from most other vehicles, there are laws that have been passed to make navigation much easier for motorcycle riders. Though the previous laws we’ve discussed can seem a bit restrictive, there are some pretty cool things motorcyclists are allowed to do in some states.

One exception motorcyclists have is lane splitting (or also referred to as “whitelining,” “lane filtering,” or “stripe-riding”). Lane splitting allows motorcyclists to ride between rows or lines of stationary or slow moving traffic when there’s a traffic jam. This lets them get ahead of the other vehicles and is thought to be safer than constantly stopping and going in slow traffic.

Keep in mind that this is not legal everywhere. A lot of states still deem this act as illegal while some other states have neither made it legal or illegal. California and Utah are the only states in the U.S. that have officially made it legal to do any lane splitting with a motorcycle.

The second biggest exception made for motorcyclists is being able to run a red light under the right circumstances. Some traffic lights are run by sensors either through a camera or a weight in the road. Sometimes if a motorcycle is left alone at a stop light, the light can’t sense it’s there because it’s too small to sense and doesn’t weigh enough to set off the weight sensor.

There have been several states that have passed a law stating that if a motorcyclist is caught in this situation, they may proceed through the red light with caution after waiting a reasonable amount of time for the light to turn red. Check with your state’s law before executing this privilege and make sure it’s legal.

Some Exceptions Motorcyclists Think They Have But Is Actually Illegal

There’s actually a lot of things that some motorcyclists do in which they truly believe they’re the exception but in actuality is quite illegal. I’ve done some of these myself many times.

You’ll probably notice a lot of motorcycles parked on sidewalks, especially at large grocery stores. While a lot of riders may get away with doing this, it’s actually illegal and could mean a hefty ticket. Parking on the sidewalk could mean being in the way of foot traffic and carriers that are trying to take in big loads. Not to mention the foot traffic being disrespectful for your property.

A lot of motorcyclists end up parking on the striped lines of parking lots. Striped lines are usually designated for handicap accessibility and a motorcycle parked in any of these areas could mean being in the way of a person with disabilities who truly need that space to safely get out of their car and move around. Not only is this considered illegal, it’s also extremely inconsiderate. Click here to see more information on motorcycle parking etiquette.

Motorcycles are also not an exception to bike lanes. Bike lanes are designated for bicycles and only bicycles. Some motorcyclists seem to believe that because their vehicle is closer to the size of a bike, they’re fine using the bike lane. The illegality of a motorcycle using a bike lane isn’t for the safety of the motorcyclist, rather it’s for the safety of the cyclist who is expecting to be in a lane with non motorized, slower moving vehicles.

Related Questions

Is it illegal to wear a tinted visor while riding a motorcycle at night? There doesn’t seem to be any laws prohibiting tinted visors, but it should be common knowledge that it is unsafe to ride in such conditions. Anything obstructing your view at night while riding a motorcycle will increase your chances of an accident.

Why is motorcycle insurance so high? There are several different factors that can contribute to high motorcycle insurance such as the driver’s age, driving record, motorcycle CC’s, motorcycle’s age, motorcycle’s value, and the crime rate of where you live. See my article here that discusses in depth the reasons motorcycle insurance is high.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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