For many Americans, flying down the open road on a motorcycle is a freedom like none other. However, just like any other driver, motorcyclists have rules and laws to abide by each time they get on their bikes.
Texas motorcycle laws are put in place to keep riders safe, as they're far more exposed to the elements than the drivers of enclosed vehicles. At the same time, these laws ensure the safety of other drivers and passengers, whose lives could be at risk from the reckless behavior of a motorcyclist.
Texas Motorcycle Laws
Only some motorcyclists are required by law to wear helmets. If you meet all of the following conditions, you are not legally required to wear a helmet:
You are over the age of 21.
You have completed an approved motorcycle operator training course.
You purchase liability insurance that covers you if you're in an accident.
These are low bars that effectively make it legal for most riders to forego wearing a helmet for safety. Moreover, state law enforcement agents aren't allowed to stop you just to check if you're in compliance.
Passengers must ride in an approved seat and be over the age of five. If they are over five, but under the required height of 4'9", they must ride in a car seat.
Helmet rules apply to passengers, and police may stop a motorcycle and issue a ticket to any passenger not in compliance. Luckily, you may be able to dismiss this ticket by taking our online Texas traffic ticket dismissal course.
Motorcycles must undergo an annual inspection to check for evidence of proper insurance and ensure that the bike has required safety features in good working order.
Lane Change Laws
While these laws are not specific to motorcyclists, they are of special concern to these smaller, more unstable vehicles:
Motorcycles may not straddle two lanes
They may not share a single lane
They may not change lanes unsafely
Getting a Motorcycle License
Motorcyclists need a Class M license to operate their vehicle in the state of Texas.
To obtain the license, you must already have a valid Class C license. Here are the other steps you need to take:
Pass a motorcycle safety course approved by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Once you've finished this course, you'll receive a completion certificate that is good for 24 months. Texas waives this requirement for licensed motorcyclists moving to Texas from other states.
Bring the completion certificate to a Texas DMV.
Pay a $16 fee to add the Class M license to your regular driver's license.
Minors between the ages of 15 and 17 may also apply for a Class M license, provided that they have met all the requirements for a learner's license. Some restrictions apply:
Minors under the age of 18 will have a "J" restriction on their license unless they take a motorcycle drive test. This requirement is separate from the motorcycle safety course described above.
A 15-year-old automatically receives an "I" restriction on their Class M license, which prohibits them from riding a motorcycle with piston displacement of greater than 250 cubic centimeters. At the age of 16, this restriction can be removed.
Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
Motorcyclists are far more vulnerable to hazards because they lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle. They are particularly vulnerable to traumatic head injury. Here are some tips to stay safe.
Always wear a helmet and heavy protective clothing.
Turn your headlights on so other cars can see you better.
Ride at a safe and responsible speed.
Avoid the large blind spots of trucks and semitrailers.
Drive defensively and always look ahead for potential hazards.
Don't pass vehicles on the shoulder, even in stopped traffic.
Exercise particular caution in construction zones; there may be loose gravel or uneven road surfacing.
Keep these laws and safety tips in mind the next time you hit the road, and your next motorcycle cruises through Texas should be a good one.