California Motorcycle Safety Laws
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rider (and passenger), it is important to know California motorcycle safety laws. Understanding the law and safety requirements can save you time and money, and more importantly, it could save your life.
Ride smart, ride safe. Here is a refresher on motorcycle safety, including required equipment, prohibited gear, and traffic laws:
- Daytime use of a headlight is required for vehicles manufactured after 1977.
- A rider should not drive a motorcycle with handlebars positioned so that they must hold their hands more than six inches above their shoulders to grip the bars while sitting in the seat.
- Left and right side mirrors are required by law.
- Full mufflers are required. Cutouts, and other similar bypasses, are prohibited.
- Turn signals are required by law.
- A passenger seat and footrest are required if carrying a passenger.
- Riders (operators and passengers) are required to wear a safety helmet
- Earplugs are allowed, but only if they do not prevent a rider from hearing emergency vehicle sirens or another driver's horn.
- Only single-earphone helmet speakers are allowed by law.
- Eye protection is not required.
Guidelines for Motorcycle Helmets
California Vehicle Code Section 27803 requires motorcycle riders to wear a helmet when on a motorcycle, motorized bicycle or motor-driven cycle. It is also illegal for a helmeted passenger to ride with an operator who is not wearing a helmet. A helmeted driver will be ticketed under the law if a passenger on his or her motorcycle is not wearing a helmet.
Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and reduce the risk of head injury by 69% (CDC)
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 includes the following minimum requirements for helmets:
- Thick Inner Liner: The liner is usually at least an inch thick and constructed of polystyrene foam
- Riveted Chin Straps: Chin straps should be sturdy and attach to the shell of the helmet with solid rivets
- Weight: Helmets meeting federal standards weigh at least three pounds
- Helmet Design: Nothing is allowed to protrude more than two-tenths of an inch from the shell of the helmet
Special Traffic Laws
- Lane splitting is legal as of August 19, 2016.
- There is no specific statute addressing two motorcycles riding beside each other.
- Rider education is required for riders under 21.
- There is no age limit on passengers.
- Riders are required to carry liability insurance.
- Motorcycles towing trailers cannot exceed 55 MPH and must ride in the far right lane (two far-right lanes on a four-lane highway).
Accidents hurt- safety doesn’t. For many, every season is riding season. It is important to follow through with your scheduled bike maintenance to help ensure your ride is in good working order before hitting the road.
Before every ride, motorcyclists should perform a pre-ride inspection and safety check of their bikes. An easy to remember checklist to use is T-CLOCS:
- Tires & Wheels
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) offers an exhaustive T-CLOCS Inspection Checklist you can download and print. Here is an MSF step-by-step video:
Rules of the Ride
- Ride sober. In California, alcohol was involved in nearly 20 percent of all motorcycle fatalities.
- Stand out. Be noticeable to increase the chances that other motorists will see you.
- Gear up. Use full protective gear, including a helmet.
- Pay attention. It might be common sense but motorcycles colliding with fixed objects comprise 25% of motorcyclist deaths.
- Practice makes perfect. Motorcycle safety classes benefit riders of all skill levels.
- Slow down. There may be a need for speed but it’s not worth losing your life.
Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
Even the most experienced and well-prepared motorcyclists can suffer catastrophic injuries or death in an accident. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, you need experienced representation from a skilled attorney who has your best interests at heart.
Call Kershaw, Cook & Talley for a free case consultation at (916) 520-6639.