State-by-State Guide to Motorcycle Laws

State-by-State Guide to Motorcycle Laws
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Motorcyclists are responsible for 14% of annual traffic-related fatalities in America, despite the fact that they represent just 3% of the total registered vehicles. It goes without saying that adhering to motorcycle laws helps protect cyclists in the event of an accident. So with that in mind, here is a state by state guide on motorcycle laws that you can use to ensure your safety and that of your passenger while on the open road.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

When it comes to helmet use, some states have made it mandatory for all riders to have a helmet on.  Others require specific aged riders to wear a helmet. For example, the law states that Idaho motorcyclists are only required to wear a helmet if they are under 18 years of age. 

Additionally, some states will require you to have a helmet that has reflective material, decal, or tape such that the helmet makes you stand out and catches the attention of other road users.

Whether your state requires you to wear a helmet or not, it is a good idea to have one on. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of motorcycle deaths by 32%. A helmet also protects you against head injuries, which are common and often fatal during motorcycle accidents. 

Your helmet should be DOT certified and also have:

  • The manufacturer’s name
  • The text FMVS218
  • The helmet’s model

Eye Protection Law 

States require that motorcycle riders wear eye protection that is shatter resistant. Recommended eye protection includes motorcycle glasses, DOT visor on the helmet, and goggles.

In some states, eye protection isn’t a requirement if you have a windscreen. Some states are specific on the windscreen size, with most requiring the windshield to be 15” above the bike handlebars.  A windshield protects you against oncoming debris and also deflects incoming air.

Some states, such as Indiana and South Carolina require you to wear eyewear if you are under a given age. Others require holders of a motorcycle instructional permit to wear eye protection. Even in states that don’t require you to wear eye protection, it is wise to have them on as they protect your eyes from debris.

Noise Restrictions Laws

When motorcycles are manufactured they have mufflers for noise reduction; excessively loud motorcycles are deliberately altered by their owners. Most states have noise laws that restrict loud exhaust from motorcycles. 

While some states require mufflers on your motorcycle, others require modifications, for example, that modified mufflers shouldn’t be louder than the OEM exhaust that comes with your motorcycle. Other states require that you have mufflers with no cut-out or bypass added.

Passenger Laws

Washington, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas are states that prohibit motorcycles from carrying passengers that are below five years. Although some states have no passenger restrictions, you should always be careful when carrying passengers and ensure they wear safety gear at all times.

Daylight Running Lights Laws

Daylight headlight use is becoming a popular law. The use of headlights during the day by motorcyclists ensures you’re visible to other road users, especially in shaded areas or where there is little sunlight. Interestingly, daytime headlight usage reduced the number of two vehicle crashes by 5.7%, it also resulted in the reduction of pedestrian accidents by 12% and a 23% reduction in motorcycle accidents involving vehicles coming from the other direction. 

Eighteen states require that your headlight must always be on. Other states allow for headlight modulation, such as having a low or dim beam. In this case, your light shouldn’t completely go off but dim and go back to full beam, making it more visible to other road users. Some states, such as Indiana, require you to use a headlight if your motorcycle was manufactured in a certain year. Ultimately, lights are there for your safety; if you do unfortunately end up in a car accident because your lights were off, you’ll likely be at fault and the other driver could file a claim against you

Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting refers to riding your motorcycle between lanes when there is slow-moving or non-moving traffic. Your motorcycle should be moving in the same direction as other traffic. Lane splitting is currently legal in California. In other states it isn’t mentioned or prohibited, while some states are still discussing legislation related to lane splitting.

Although lane splitting can help reduce traffic congestion in large cities, it can be dangerous if you’re not a confident driver. Lane splitting often confuses other road users, and it is a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Here is a summarized table showing the discussed motorcycle laws for each state.

Alabama

  • Helmets required.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Modulation of headlights allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Alaska

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen that is 15” above the handlebars.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required by law.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

Arizona

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement but no cut-out or bypass allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Modulation of headlights allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not specified.

Arkansas

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • Passengers aged 8 and under prohibited.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting not prohibitied
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

California

  • Helmets required.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Muffler a requirement but no cut-out or bypass allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are mandatory for motorcycles manufactured after 1977.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Colorado

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights modulating required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Connecticut

  • Helmets required for all under 18 and for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement but no cut-out or bypass allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required for motorcycles manufactured after 1979.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Delaware

  • Helmets required for all under 19.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Modulating of headlights allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Florida

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • You should have a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Muffler a requirement with no increase of sound levels.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Georgia

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Hawaii

  • Eye protection required if you’re under 18.
  • Muffler a requirement and no modifications on the sound level.
  • No carrying of passengers who are under 7.
  • Day headlights have no restriction.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Idaho

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Muffler required no modification allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Illinois

  • Helmets not required.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement no modifications on sound levels required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required by law.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Indiana

  • Helmets required for all under 18 and for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection required if you’re under 18.
  • Requirements no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights for motorcycles manufactured after 1955.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Iowa

  • Helmets not required.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required for motorcycles manufactured after 1977.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Kansas

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs and bypasses.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required for motorcycles manufactured after 1977.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Kentucky

  • Helmets required for all under 18 or for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs or sound level modifications.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

Louisiana

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No passengers who are under 5 years. Children should have a helmet on and be properly seated.
  • Headlight modulation required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Maine

  • Helmets required for all under 18 or for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Maryland

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement and no sound level modification allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights have no restrictions.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Massachusetts

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required for instructional permit holders unless one has a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Michigan

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Minnesota

  • Helmets required for all under 18 or for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Muffler a requirement modifications to change sound levels not allowed.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Mississippi

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Missouri

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

Montana

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Nebraska

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Nevada

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs or sound level modifications.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

New Hampshire

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

New Jersey

  • Helmets required for all with reflectorization also needed.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

New Mexico

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required, with no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

New York

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Muffler a requirement with no modifications.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

North Carolina

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

North Dakota

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Ohio

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement with no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulating allowed.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Oklahoma

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler a requirement or other effective systems to suppress noise.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Oregon

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is legal.

Pennsylvania

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Muffler required no noise modifications.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required for motorcycles manufactured after 1985.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal unless covering one ear.

Rhode Island

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Muffler required no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights have no restrictions.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

South Carolina

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required for all under 21 unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

South Dakota

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Tennessee

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Texas

  • Helmets required for all under 21.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No passengers under age 5 unless sited in a sidecar attached to the motorcycle.
  • Day headlights are required for motorcycles manufactured after 1974.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Utah

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Vermont

  • Helmets required for all with reflectorization.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Virginia

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Washington

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Noise laws are required.
  • No passengers aged below 5.
  • Day headlights are required by law.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

Washington DC

  • Helmets required for all.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen.
  • Muffler required no modifications on sound levels.
  • No age restriction.
  • Headlight modulation allowed.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is illegal.

West Virginia

  • Helmets required for all with reflectorization.
  • Eye protection required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is not prohibited.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Wisconsin

  • Helmets required for all under 18 or for instructional permit holders.
  • Eye protection required unless you have a windscreen that is 15” above the handlebars.
  • Noise laws are required, no cut-outs.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited.

Wyoming

A requirement if you’re under 18Not a requirementNot Required,No restrictionsA RequirementIllegalNot prohibited

  • Helmets required for all under 18.
  • Eye protection not required.
  • Noise laws are not required.
  • No age restriction.
  • Day headlights are required.
  • Lane splitting is illegal.
  • Headphones while driving is not prohibited

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