California Motorcycle Laws: What You Need to Know

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California motorcycle laws

If you or a loved one operates a motorcycle in California, it is important to possess a basic understanding of relevant traffic laws and regulations. Why? Because motorcyclists are considered to be some of the most vulnerable motorists on California roads and highways. When a vehicle collides with a motorist, the person operating the motorcycle usually bears the brunt of the damage.

A motorcyclist does not have the protections afforded by your typical sedan, SUV, or pickup truck. They do not have a steel frame or airbags to help mitigate the damage caused by the impact. This is why it is common for a motorbike rider involved in an accident to suffer a catastrophic bodily injury.

If you or a loved one gets seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important to take action to protect your legal rights and determine whether you have grounds to pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses through a personal injury claim. To get a better idea of your legal options, consider contacting an experienced and respected California motorcycle accident lawyer.

They can provide guidance and insight on pertinent issues and the legal elements that must be met in order to have a viable motorcycle accident injury claim in California. In that endeavor, here is a general summary of relevant laws, regulations, and legal issues you should be aware of.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

According to California’s universal helmet law drivers on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle are required to wear a motorcycle helmet, and refusing to do so is illegal. According to the same motorcycle helmet laws motorcycle passengers are required to wear a safety helmet the same as the motorcycle driver. This is a vital motorcycle safety point both for the motorist and the passenger.

Getting a Driver’s License – Steps You Need to Take to Operate a Motorcycle in California

Before jumping into the deep end of California motorcycle laws, let’s take a look at what must be done in order to obtain a motorcycle license. If you want to operate a motorbike in California, there are California motorcycle permit rules that must be respected and followed. For example, according to California law, all motorcyclists are required to obtain a learner’s permit before they are eligible to apply for a license. If you are under the age of 21, California permit rules require you to hold a permit for at least six months before you can apply for a license.
In order to obtain a motorcycle learner’s permit, you need to complete the following requirements:

Permits are only valid for 12 months after issuance. You should also be aware of the fact that when you have a motorcycle permit, you are prohibited from doing any of the following:

  • Operating a motorcycle on the freeway
  • Operating a motorcycle at night
  • Operating a motorcycle with passengers or carrying passengers

Overview of California Motorcycle Laws

While taking the steps necessary to obtain a license, you may be surprised to learn that motorcyclists in California are required to follow the same rules of the road as people operating sedans, pickup trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles. However, there are also specific statutes enacted by the California legislature designed to protect motorcyclists.

For example, according to California Vehicle Code Section 27803, all motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet at all times. In addition, the helmet must be in compliance with standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In addition to helmets, all motorcycles in California must come equipped with handlebars and those handlebars may not be installed in such a position that puts the motorcycle rider’s hands more than six inches above their shoulder height as they are sitting on the seat. The handlebar requirement is set forth in California Vehicle Code Section 27801.

Along with handlebars and helmets, all motorcycles must come equipped with operational front and rear turn signals.

California motorcycle mirror law

Do You Need Mirrors on a Motorcycle? Info on California Motorcycle Mirror Law

A common question asked by people interested in purchasing a motorcycle, is “do motorcycles have to have mirrors?” According to the California motorcycle mirror law, the answer is yes. According to Section 26709 of the California Vehicle Code, all motorcycles operating in California must be equipped with both left and right mirrors. The legislature enacted motorcycle mirror laws to try and enhance the safety of motorcycle operators.

Motorcycle Insurance Laws

Is motorcycle insurance required in California?

The short answer is – YES.

All motorists in California must have insurance. California’s motorcycle insurance minimum requirements include liability insurance coverage for the death or injury to one and multiple people and property damage coverage.

What Are Street-Legal Motorcycles?

“Street legal”  refers to motor vehicles that are equipped and licensed for use on public roads. This requires specific lighting, signal lights, and safety equipment.

So what motorcycles are street legal? In California, motorcycles must meet specific requirements to be deemed street legal: they must meet California’s emissions laws and be equipped with blinkers, windshields, horns, and other safety equipment. Bike’s that do not meet these requirements still can be converted to a street-legal model. For example, dirt bikes aren’t street legal in California but if your model adheres to the state’s emissions guidelines you can modify it with additional gear to meet the requirements.

California motorcycle permit rules

Lane Splitting and Sharing in California

Motorcyclists in California are legally allowed to operate in between lanes of traffic. This practice is known as “lane splitting” and is tolerated in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and the risk of serious motorcycle accidents.

Keep in mind that lane sharing is different from lane splitting.

California is actually the first state in America to legally recognize lane splitting as an official motorcycle law. Prior to 2016, lane splitting was not illegal in California but was not formally codified into the California Vehicle Code. Since 2016, the California Highway Patrol issued guidelines so motorcyclists can safely engage in lane splitting.

Those guidelines include the following:

  • Motorcyclists should try to avoid riding at speeds of 10 miles per hour greater than surrounding traffic.
  • Lane splitting should be avoided when surrounding traffic is moving at 30 miles per hour or faster.
  • Motorcyclists need to take into account lane width, the size of surrounding vehicles, weather, and lighting conditions when lane splitting.
  • Avoid lane splitting around large vehicles, such as commercial tractor-trailers.
  • Motorcyclists should avoid riding in the blind spots of other vehicles.
  • Under California motorcycle laws, it is illegal to operate a motorbike in the shoulder lane. Please be advised that, according to motorcycle rules in California, riding in the shoulder lane is not the same as lane splitting.
  • To maximize safety while lane splitting, consider wearing bright clothing and reflective gear.

Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Injury Lawyer

To get additional info about relevant motorcycle accident laws and insight into pertinent legal issues, contact an experienced California motorcycle accident injury lawyer today.

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If you or someone you love has been involved in a motorcycle accident, we are here to offer our legal advice and information about motorcycle accident law in California. Please contact our office for more information.