California Motorcycle Laws

Motorcyclists must follow California’s traffic laws like all other road users. But California also has some laws that apply only to motorcycles. These laws cover the safety equipment a motorcyclist must wear, how a rider gets an operator’s license, and the special maneuvers permitted for motorcycles.

The common theme of these laws is safety. Motorcyclists face different challenges on the road than automobile drivers. These laws and regulations acknowledge the dangers that come from riding a motorcycle and try to mitigate them.

Below, you will learn about California motorcycle laws and how these laws affect your right to injury compensation after a motorcycle accident. Contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers today in San Diego, CA, to schedule a free consultation with a San Diego motorcycle accident lawyer. Call us at (619) 777-5555.

How Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help After an Accident in San Diego

How Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help After an Accident in San Diego
protective biker gloves on a motorcycle wheel with light effects. Driver accelerates, close-up

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers has represented San Diego, California accident victims since 2010. Since opening its doors, the firm has had a 99% track record of success. As a result, the firm’s San Diego personal injury attorneys have obtained tens of millions of dollars in injury compensation for their clients.

Some of the firm’s notable case results include:

  • $3.2 million truck accident settlement
  • $1.1 million car accident settlement
  • $205,000 car accident settlement

Injuries from a motorcycle crash could disable you. You might require extensive medical treatment and have no way to pay for it. To discuss your motorcycle accident injuries and the compensation you might seek for them, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.

How Common Are Motorcycle Laws?

Motorcycle laws are very common. Every state has some laws that apply only to motorcycles and motorcyclists.

Every state, including California, has a separate motorcycle operator’s license or endorsement. Of these, 49 states require motorcyclists to take a motorcycle safety course that applicants for a regular driver’s license do not need to take. Only Alabama allows applicants to take a written test instead of the motorcycle safety course.

There are motorcycle helmet laws in 47 states. Only Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire allow all riders to ride without a helmet. Most states have an age-limited helmet law. California and 18 other states have universal helmet laws.

Every state has laws about the traffic maneuvers motorcycles can and cannot make. Most states have laws prohibiting maneuvers like lane filtering and lane splitting. California permits these maneuvers in most situations.

Motorcycle laws are common because motorcycle accidents are common. In 2021, San Diego County had 1,385 motorcycle accidents that caused injury or death, according to the Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS). The City of San Diego itself had 640 motorcycle crashes in 2021.

Overview of California Motorcycle Laws

Motorcycle laws in California fall into three broad categories: license, equipment, and maneuvering.

California law requires all motorcycle operators to have a special motorcycle license or endorsement. To get a motorcycle license in California, you must pass:

  • A written driver test
  • A written motorcycle test
  • Either a motorcycle skills test or a motorcycle safety course

California law also requires all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear a helmet when riding. Unlike many states, the helmet law does not have any exceptions based on the rider’s age or health insurance status.

Lane filtering and lane splitting are legal in California. In most other states, laws outlaw these practices.

Riding between active lanes of moving traffic is called lane filtering. Lane splitting is when you move between active lanes of stopped traffic. These maneuvers reduce the risk of a rear-end collision as a motorcyclist waits in traffic.

Do Motorcycle Laws Make a Difference?

Motorcycle laws tend to reduce motorcycle accidents and the severity of the injuries caused.

About 20% of motorcyclists do not have a motorcycle license, but 36% of riders involved in fatal accidents are unlicensed. This means unlicensed motorcyclists are 1.8 times more likely to get into a fatal motorcycle crash than licensed motorcyclists. Motorcycle licensing laws require motorcyclists to learn the skills and knowledge to ride safely.

If you get into a motorcycle crash, wearing a helmet reduces your chance of a head injury by up to 69% and your chance of death by up to 42%. By requiring motorcycle helmets, California’s motorcycle laws save hundreds of lives every year.

When California prepared legislation to become the first state to legalize lane splitting, it relied on a report from the University of California, Berkeley. This study found that lane splitting reduced the severity of injuries in collisions by allowing motorcyclists to move out of the way of drivers in slow or stopped traffic.

Does Violating a Motorcycle Law Affect Injury Compensation?

If you get into an accident while violating California motorcycle laws, a jury or claims adjuster can reduce the compensation you receive. California uses comparative fault after an accident to allocate blame. Even if someone else caused your accident, a jury or claims adjuster can allocate partial blame to you.

For example, if you were not wearing a helmet during your motorcycle accident, you might bear 30% of the blame for your head injury. As a result, you can recover only 70% of your losses from the at-fault driver.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our San Diego Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Even when you follow all of California’s motorcycle laws and ride with reasonable care, a driver can still run into your motorcycle. To learn about the compensation you can seek for your motorcycle accident injuries, contact our motorcycle accident lawyers in San Diego from Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.