Ask a Trooper: Motorcycle Laws

In conjunction with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s program, “It’s a fine line,” the Washington State Patrol (WSP) will run a motorcycle safety effort from July 29-August 16th in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties.

According to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission:

  • Between 2011-2015 in Washington State, an average of 74 motorcyclists died each year
  • In those same years, an average of 38 motorcyclists died in July, August, and September
  • Speeding was involved in 51% of fatalities and 30% of serious injuries among motorcyclists
  • Lane departure (running off the road) contributed to 49% of fatalities and 28% of serious injuries

Ahead of this emphasis, WSP Motors Officer Guy Gill stopped by to answer some frequently asked questions regarding motorcycle laws and best practices!

 

Are helmets required for motorcycle riders in Washington State?

Yes, helmets are required in Washington State and must meet specific U.S. Department of Transportation standards. A helmet meeting these standards set by DOT has a sticker on the back, and inside labeling indicating the manufacturer name, helmet model, size, etc. For more information, please visit: http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/helmets.htm.

 

Is it legal to lane split?

No, lane splitting is not legal in Washington State.

 

Does my motorcycle need to be inspected?

The Department of Licensing will determine whether or not the vehicle needs to be inspected prior to receiving a title or registration.

 

Can I have flashing headlights on my motorcycle?

No.

Flashing/rotating/pulsing lights are not legal on vehicles when operated on the public roadway in Washington State unless the vehicle is authorized by statute.  Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.37.280 states in part, “. . .(3) Flashing lights are prohibited except as required in RCW 46.37.190 (emergency vehicle), 46.37.200(turn signals), 46.37.210(hazard lamps), 46.37.215(hazard lamps), and 46.37.300(snow removal vehicle), warning lamps authorized by the state patrol, and light emitting diode flashing taillights on bicycles.” Therefore it would not be legal to use a red flashing light on your motorcycle while on the public roadway, for example.

 

How does motorcycle testing in Washington State work?

The Washington Department of Licensing issued two types of motorcycle testing: Knowledge and riding skills tests. For more information, please see: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/mototesting.html

 

Do you have to have insurance on a motorcycle in Washington?

Under RCW 46.04.330, Washington State does not require motorcycle insurance.

 

How old do you have to be to ride a motorcycle?

You have to be at least 16 years old and possess a valid Washington driver’s license.

 

Do I have to take state issued motorcycle safety courses?

Yes, you have to successfully complete a motorcycle safety course at an approved motorcycle training schoolhttp://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/getmoto.html

 

Do you have to be endorsed?

To legally ride in Washington, you must have a 2-wheel motorcycle or 3-wheel sidecar/trike:

Endorsement on your driver license or a motorcycle instruction permit to learn how to ride on public roadways. For more information: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/needendorsement.html

 

How do I get an endorsement of permit?

According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, there are 2 ways to get a 2-wheel motorcycle endorsement:

1: Successfully complete a motorcycle safety course at an approved motorcycle training school.

2: Pass the knowledge and riding skills tests.

 

Can motorcycles use the HOV lane?

Yes! Standard HOV lanes are generally inside (left) lanes and are identified by signs along the highway and diamond symbols painted on the pavement. They are typically separated from the other lanes on the highway by a solid white line. The HOV lane requirement is either 2+ or 3+ persons per vehicle, depending on the highway and/or time of day. Motorcycles are allowed to use all standard HOV lanes.

 

Can I ride in another state with a proper WA STATE motors license?

When riding out of state, you need to follow the laws of the state you’re in or you could be ticketed.

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