Few images conjure the idea of “California” as succinctly as riding your motorcycle up the coastal highway. In order to truly enjoy this feeling of freedom, it is essential that you adhere to California's motorcycle safety laws to protect you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road.
California Motorcycle Helmet Law
Under California Law CVC §27803, all motorcycle riders and passengers are required by law to wear a helmet that is approved by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). Although the law permits riders and passengers to wear half shell, three-quarters, and full-face helmets, the state notes that full-face helmets with lock-in visors offer the most protection to the front and back of your head.
Although helmets may change the feeling the breeze in hour hair while enjoying a summer afternoon ride, riders who wear safety helmets are three times more likely to survive a head injury than those who do not wear a helmet.
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In addition to wearing a USDOT-approved helmet, motorcycle riders are encouraged to wear protective clothing, such as a leather jacket, long pants, sturdy over-the-ankle boots, and gloves, in addition to face or eye protection, if this protection is not included in the helmet. California also suggests that motorcycle riders dress conspicuously, by wearing bright and/or reflective clothing to increase their visibility, even during the day.
California Motorcycle Safety Equipment
California also regulates what equipment you need on your motorcycle to ensure it is safe to drive.
Specifically, you need:
- At least one mirror that lets you see 200 feet or more behind you;
- Turn signals; and
- A muffler.
Moreover, your handlebars cannot be positioned so they are more than six inches above your shoulder height when sitting on the seat.
In addition to ensuring that your motorcycle is equipped according to California motorcycle laws, you should periodically review all of your bike's equipment to make sure it is in proper working order.
Double check that your headlights, taillights, and brakes are working and the bulbs aren't burned out. Make sure the brakes work smoothly, and that your chain or belt is properly lubricated. You don't want to run into an issue with your motorcycle's equipment while you're in a remote part of the state.
You should also protect your motorcycle from thieves! Make sure you lock your bike and helmet, and consider upgrading to disc brake locks. Use a chain lock to secure your motorcycle to a stationary object, such as a street lamp.
Lane Splitting and Riding Safely
California permits motorcycle riders to move between lanes of traffic in order to get around vehicles. This practice, known as lane splitting, allows motorcyclists to move forward, even while traffic is stalled. California does not prohibit lane sharing, where two motorcycles share a single lane of traffic.
When lane splitting, it's important to stay as visible as possible. Often, car drivers aren't looking for motorcycles when they change lanes, so you'll also need to stay alert and anticipate other drivers. Give yourself enough time and space to react in case a car sideswipes you.
As with your clothing, you should drive as conspicuously as possible – ride in the best lane position so other drivers can see you, and liberally use your turn signals.
California Motorcycle Driving License
California allows teenagers and adults to obtain a motorcycle driving license. If you're a minor between the age of 15 ½ and 17, you'll need to take a general driver's ed class. Motorcycle drivers between 15 ½ and 20 will also need to take a motorcycle skills class and hold a motorcycle driving permit for at least six months before applying for a full motorcycle license.
While holding a provisional permit, you cannot carry passengers, drive at night, or take the freeway. The provisional permit is valid for 12 years. Adult drivers over 20 years old do not need a driving permit as a prerequisite to the full motorcycle license.
All motorcycle riders are required to have their vision checked and take both a written and a skills test, demonstrating your knowledge of laws and ability to properly control your motorcycle. You can study for this test by reviewing the California Motorcycle Handbook, which provides important knowledge and practice exams.
Unfortunately, even the safest of motorcycle riders may find themselves the victim of a traffic accident. Our personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman have been serving motorcyclists and drivers in the Santa Rosa area for more than 60 years. In order to schedule a free consultation, please contact us by calling (707) 575-7141 today