19 Key Traffic Laws Every Motorcycle Rider Needs To Know Before Going For A Ride

19 Key Traffic Laws Every Motorcycle Rider Needs To Know Before Going For A Ride 2

With well over 8 million motorcycles in the United States the need to know the key laws about motorcycle riding becomes important for millions of riders.  And although motorcycles make up just 3 per cent of the registered vehicles in the US, they account for over 5 per cent of the accidents.  So knowing your rights – and obligations – becomes particularly important.


What becomes particularly important is the liability issues arising when accident occur.  For instance, many motorcycle accidents involves drivers turning left in front of the motorcycle.  Another is where drivers pull out of side streets or drives without looking.  Other issues involve potholes that upset cycles when following another vehicle, or where there is gravel or oil slicks on the road.

All these – and many other potential or actual problems – lead to potential liability issues or require the motorcycle rider to know what his or her rights and obligations are.

When driving, it is important to be aware of the specific rules that apply in each state. However, there are a number of key regulations that apply across the country. These include staying within your lane, stopping at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians and other cars when turning, and using your turn signal when changing lanes or merging. If you are visiting or moving, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with these rules before getting behind the wheel.

Following them will support you to stay safe on the roads.

Signal When Changing Lanes

In many states, failing to signal before turning or changing lanes is treated as a noncriminal traffic infraction. This means that if you are caught by law enforcement, you will likely receive a ticket but not be arrested. While this may seem like no big deal, it’s actually illegal and dangerous to yourself and all the drivers around you.

Failing to signal can cause accidents because other drivers don’t know your intentions. It’s important to always use your turn signals so that everyone knows what you’re doing and can avoid accidents.

Lane Splitting Rules

Lane splitting, where motorcycles ride between vehicles that are (usually) moving slowly is something that is legal in some states, like California, but illegal in many others, including Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia and Georgia.

Make sure you know what the rules are for the State your are in.

Safe Following Distance

The recommended following distance between cars is three seconds, but many drivers do not know what this means. To ensure safety while driving, it is important to be aware of the recommended following distance and to follow it when possible. If you are too close to the car in front of you, you run the risk of rear-ending them if they brake suddenly. If you are too far back, you may not be able to stop in time if they do break suddenly. By keeping a safe following distance between yourself and the car in front of you. You also can avoid accidents and ensure your safety on the road.

Regulations and Permits for Motorcycle Riding & Age Limits

A special test for riding a motorcycle up to 125cc is unnecessary for those having a car drivers licence.  Generally in the United States there is no restriction placed upon the size of a motorcycle that can be ridden after a motorcycle test has been passed.

A licence is needed in all states, which may be noted on a car licence.  But in terms of age limits on riding, the minimum age for riding a motorcycle over 50 cc varies from state to state.  For instance, Massachusetts motorcycle laws are pretty lenient with an age limit of 16 to obtain a learners permit.  However age limits may be less in states like Alabama, Alaska and Kansas where it is 14 and 15 in Hawaii and Florida, for instance.

School Bus Rules Awareness

School buses are an important part of our neighbourhoods and the obligations on both drivers and motorcycle riders to obey the laws regarding school buses is important.   They provide a way for children to get to and from school without having to walk or ride their bikes.

When one of these buses stops  it is important that everyone obey the traffic law and stay back, including riders.   When a bus may be stopping to let children off, and they could be crossing the street soon after. If you run by a stopped school bus, you could put one of these children in danger. 

Emergency Vehicles

Motorcycles may have the ability to accelerate with often lethal speed, but when it comes to emergency vehicles they have the same obligations as any other vehicle when it comes to permitting emergency vehicles to pass by to attend to the emergency.   

This is especially important if the emergency vehicle is approaching from behind or from the opposite direction. This includes fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars, among other speciality law enforcement vehicles. Letdown to give way to these vehicles can consequence in heavy fines and possible imprisonment for repeat offenders.

Traffic Light Laws

In the United States, each state has its own set of traffic light laws, so it is important to be familiar with them if you are driving in that state. In general, the right of way goes to the vehicle on the right when there is a stop sign or red light at an intersection. Know the rules about the traffic light signals and avoid running red lights. If you are stopped at a red light and there is a car coming from the other direction, you must wait for that vehicle to pass before proceeding.

Speed Limits

Every state has a set speed limit, and violators can face hefty fines. The national speed limit is generally 55 miles per hour on interstate highways and 35 mph on other roads. These limits are in place to protect both you and other motorists, and you’re not allowed to go any faster than the posted limit.

The problem for motorcycles with their fast acceleration rates, which can often be generated through safety need, is that they also provide an appearance of high speed that can attract the attention of traffic police.  The same safety and legal requirements however will apply to motorcycles as with drivers, albeit that both have quite different functions in terms of their mobility and configuration.

Drink Driving/Riding

Drinking and driving is never a good idea and it need hardly be said that the same applies to motorcycle riders. Intoxicated driving is responsible for a massive number of fatalities with one-third of fatalities involved drunk riders or drivers, according to the Motorcycle Legal Foundation.

Further, an NHTSA study found that there are more intoxicated motorcycle riders involved in fatal accidents compared to intoxicated car drivers. 

Helmet on When Riding a Two-Wheeler

If you’re planning on riding a two-wheeler, it’s important to wear a helmet whether you’re an experienced rider or not. It’s one of the most important safety measures you can take, and it can save your life in the event of an accident.

Whether you’re riding a bicycle, scooter, or motorbike, wearing a helmet is the law in many places around the world. So, make sure you obey the law and wear your helmet when you’re out riding and make sure also that you are aware of the requirements regarding passengers on your motorcycle

Tolls and Toll Violations

Tolls are a common occurrence on many roads, and they’re usually paid by drivers who use the road. But what happens when someone doesn’t pay the toll? In some cases, the toll collector may report the non-payer to law enforcement. This is often done to ensure that the tolls are paid and for the safety of everyone involved. But what happens if law enforcement isn’t able to find the driver or the driver doesn’t have the money to pay the fine? In that case, they may be arrested.


By being aware of motorcycle riding laws you can not only help keep yourself safe, but given the high proportion of injuries and fatalities involving motorcycles you are better positioned to also ensure that any liability issues are not driven home to yourself in the event of legal repercussions.

Source: Kiley Law Group, Massachusetts

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