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A Summary of Washington State Motorcycle Laws

Through this summer, Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel is committed to spreading the message of motorcycle safety awareness. In my previous blog post, I shared several safety tips that all motorcyclists should know. Today, I want to discuss a rather complicated subject: motorcycle laws.

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In addition to the standard rules of the road, motorcyclists must follow a specific set of laws. This can be confusing for some as motorcycle laws vary state-by-state. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or motorcycle newbie, it’s always helpful to get a refresher on Washington State motorcycle laws in the event of an accident. Here is a brief summary of laws that all motorcyclists should know. Please check out sources such as the Washington State Legislature or Department of Licensing for further information.

Licensing
There are two ways to receive a motorcycle permit or endorsement in Washington State: through completing a motorcycle safety course or passing a knowledge and riding skills test, both through an approved motorcycle training school. You must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license in order to apply for a permit.

Specs
All motorcycles are required to have a muffler. Left and right side-view mirrors are required, unless your motorcycle was originally manufactured without it. Turn signals are also only required if they were originally included on your motorcycle. Handlebars may not be higher than 30 inches above the seat.

Gear
All motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet. Be sure that the helmet is certified by the Department of Transportation, with the correct sticker or label on the helmet. However, unlike several other states, Washington does not prohibit in-speaker helmet (so feel free to safely jam out if you choose!) Eye protection, such as eyeglasses or goggles, are required when riding, unless your motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen.

Insurance
While motorcycle insurance is not required in Washington State, it’s a good idea to fully cover yourself in case of an accident. If you plan to travel, be aware of the insurance laws in that state or country. For example, Canada, Oregon and Idaho all require motorcycle insurance. Considering the highest statistics of fatal motorcycle crashes, you should highly consider purchasing insurance to help protect assets if you’re involved in a crash. In my opinion, having full package motorcycle insurance policy is just as important as wearing proper safety gear.

On the road
In Washington State, motorcyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side in a lane. In order to legally carry passengers, your motorcycle must be equipped with more than one seat. The passenger must have their own foot pegs or bucket seat with a seatbelt. Additionally, passengers below the age of 5 are prohibited.

When on the road, motorcyclists are legally allowed to run red lights through an intersection or onto a left turn intersection, if the lights don’t turn green after one complete cycle. Finally, let’s talk about lane splitting. Lane splitting is an often controversial topic that is debated by motorcycle enthusiasts and legal professionals alike. While lane splitting is legal in California and much of the world, it is not authorized in Washington State. However, lawmakers have discussed a possible amendment to the law in recent years.

To be a responsible motorcyclist, it’s important to fully understanding the motorcycle laws specific to your state. In the event of an accident, you’ll want to be aware of any factors that can affect your personal injury claim. Since injuries suffered from motorcycle accidents are often serious and possibly fatal, you should seek legal guidance as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out to my team and I at Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel to help you steer your case in the right direction.