Under California laws, motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles. The state also has specific laws that apply only to motorcyclists. These laws are meant to protect not just motorcyclists, but also all motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists on our roadways. They exist for the protection and safety of everyone who uses the road.
As motorcyclists, it is important to know and understand these laws that could help reduce the risk of an accident, which could result in major injuries or even fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle crash, an experienced California motorcycle accident lawyer at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates will fight to hold the negligent parties accountable and to help you secure maximum compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.
Requirements for Getting a Motorcycle License
California requires all motorcyclists to obtain a learner's permit before applying for a motorcycle license. The law also says that those who are under 21 must hold the permit for at least six months before they can actually apply for a license. Applicants who wish to obtain a learner's permit must pass vision, skills and knowledge tests that covers information found in the California Motorcycle Handbook.
Also, applicants who are under 21 must pass a California Motorcyclist Safety Program training course administered by the California Highway Patrol. Permits are valid for 12 months after the date of issue, but they prohibit drivers from carrying passengers, driving on the freeway or driving after dark.
Helmet and Other Safety Equipment Laws
California has a number of regulations when it comes to safety equipment motorcyclists must use. Here are some of the laws that cover what safety equipment motorcyclists must use:
Helmets: California Vehicle Code Section 27803 requires motorcyclists and passengers to wear helmets at all times. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) sets minimum safety standards for motorcycle helmets sold in this country. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 states that motorcycle helmets should have a thick inner liner at least an inch thick and made from polystyrene foam. Helmets should also have riveted chinstraps attacked to the shell of the helmets with solid rivets.
Helmets that meet federal standards usually weigh at least three pounds. From a design point of view, nothing is allowed to protrude more than two-tenths of an inch from the helmet's shell. Helmets that meet these standards are allowed to bear a sticker certifying that fact. California helmet laws require riders and passengers to wear helmets that meet standards adopted by the state, which are the DOT standards.
Motorcycles: California Vehicle Code Section 26709 requires that motorcycles must be equipped with right and left mirrors. Handlebars should not be installed in such a way that it puts the driver's hands more than six inches above his or her shoulder height as he or she is seated, according to California Vehicle Code 27801. All motorcycles built on Jan. 1, 1973 or later must have working turn signals both front and rear. Also, for motorcycles manufactured from 2013 and after, exhaust systems must be compliant with the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act.
Lane Splitting and Lane Sharing
According to the State of California's AB-51, lane splitting is legally defined as "a motorcycle that is ridden between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets, roads or highways." California is currently the only state to officially recognize lane splitting. The state also has some laws that could help protect motorcyclists when they are lane splitting.
California Vehicle Code 22400 prohibits motorists from driving at a speed that is so slow that it blocks the normal movement of traffic, unless it is necessary for safety. California Vehicle Code 22517 makes it unlawful for motorists to open vehicle doors unless it is reasonably safe to do so. This is to prevent "dooring" accidents that could affect motorcyclists or bicyclists. California also does not restrict lane sharing, which is when two motorcyclists ride side by side in a single lane of traffic.
When it comes to carrying passengers, California has no laws setting age restrictions. However, the law says passenger seats must be securely fastened to the motorcycle behind the driver's seat. Passengers must also have footrests in place, which should be used when the motorcycle is in motion.
Insurance Requirements for Motorcycles
Motorcyclists in California are required to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance: $5,000 for property damage; $15,000 for bodily injury to an individual; and $30,000 for bodily injuries to multiple victims. In California, if a motorcyclist does not have these minimum amounts of insurance coverage, he or she may be looking at a license suspension for a year.
While those are the minimum amounts of coverage you must have on your policy, you can certainly buy higher levels of coverage. Liability insurance only covers injuries and damages to the other party. Any injuries, medical costs or property damage that you incur will not be covered if you only have minimum policy limits. It might be in your best interest to include collision or comprehensive motorcycle insurance coverage, which will pay for repair and replacement of your motorcycle. It is also a good idea to consider adding Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) to your policy. This type of coverage provides financial protection in the event you're involved in a collision that is not your fault, but that is the fault of someone who does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries and damages. Your motorcycle accident lawyer can help you explore other avenues of compensation. When a negligent party causes your accident, that individual or entity can be held financially responsible for your damages.
Contacting an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The Orange County motorcycle accident lawyers at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates work diligently to help our injured clients secure compensation for damage such as medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. We will help you gather and compile evidence to show that your injuries were caused by another party's negligence and/or wrongdoing. Our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid when you receive compensation. Call us at (714) 898-4444 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.