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Frequently Asked Questions About Washington Motorcycle Laws

Do I have to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle?

Yes, you cannot legally operate or ride upon a motorcycle or any other kind of motor-driven cycle unless you are wearing a motorcycle helmet, according to RCW 46.37.530 (1)(c). The helmet must be fastened securely with the chin or neck strap while the motorcycle is in motion. Although helmet speakers are known to cause distraction, they are not restricted in the state of Washington.

Do I have to wear eye protection while operating a motorcycle?

Yes, you must be wearing glasses, goggles or any other type of face shield unless your motorcycle has a windshield, according to RCW 46.37.530 (1)(b).

Are there requirements my motorcycle has to meet?

Yes, your motorcycle must have two side-view mirrors and a muffler, along with functional headlamps, tail lamps and turn signals. Your motorcycle is exempt from the turn signal requirement only if it was originally manufactured without turn signals. Additionally, your motorcycle must have a passenger seat and footrest if you plan to carry any passengers. Finally, the handlebar on your motorcycle cannot exceed 30 inches above the height of the seat.

How do I obtain a motorcycle license?

According to RCW 46.20.515, in order to obtain a motorcycle license in Washington, you must pass an endorsement examination that tests your ability to perform “maneuvers necessary for on-street operation, including emergency braking and turning as may be required to avoid an impending collision.” The examination may be administered by an entity contracted under RCW 46.20.520. Furthermore, you may not need to take the examination if you have completed a voluntary motorcycle operator training and education program authorized under RCW 46.20.520. You may also have the exam waived if you have completed a private motorcycle skills education course certified under RCW 46.81A.020.

Is motorcycle insurance required?

Yes. As of July 28, 2019, motorcycles are required to have mandatory liability insurance. This is outlined in RCW 46.30.020, which states that a motorcycle operator must have a liability policy with acceptable limits as defined by RCW 46.29.090 along with written proof of insurance. Insurance identification must be presented to a law enforcement officer when requested; otherwise, refusal may be construed as not having a license, which is treated as a traffic infraction and carries penalties. Motor scooters and mopeds are still exempt from the law.

The liability insurance policy must provide the following:

  • Minimum $25,000 in liability insurance to cover injuries or death to another person
  • Minimum $50,000 in liability insurance to cover injuries or death to all other people
  • Minimum $10,000 in liability insurance to cover damage to another person’s property

Is lane splitting allowed?

No. According to RCW 46.61.608 (4), “no person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”

How about lane sharing?

Yes, but no more than two motorcycles can share a lane side-by-side.

How loud can my motorcycle be?

According to Washington Administrative Code 173-62-030, a motorcycle cannot emit more than 78 decibels at 45 mph or less, more than 82 decibels over 45 mph, as measured at 50 feet. However, all motorcycles manufactured prior to 1986 are exempt from this restriction.

What should I do if I’ve been in a motorcycle accident in Washington?

Call the knowledgeable Seattle motorcycle accident attorneys at Pendergast Law to learn about your rights and legal options in a consultation at no cost to you. Our number is 888-539-9211.

Can I ride with a passenger on my motorcycle?

Yes, you may have a passenger on your motorcycle. The passenger is required to wear a helmet at all times unless:

  • The motorcycle is an antique.
  • The motorcycle is equipped with a steering wheel, seat belts and a certified seating area for the driver and passenger that provides complete or partial protection.

Motorcycles with sidecars can have one passenger in the sidecar and one passenger riding behind the driver. In addition, you may only ride with a passenger if the motorcycle is equipped with pegs or footrests, and the passenger keeps their feet on opposite sides of the bike (no side-saddling).

What if I am partially at fault for a motorcycle accident?

Even if you were partially at fault for an accident, you are still entitled to partial compensation for any injuries or property damage. Washington state civil courts operate under comparative negligence laws, which means that all parties in a personal injury case may be at fault for the incident. If you file a personal injury claim and are less than 50% at fault, you may recover a portion of damages based on how much fault is attributed to you. For example, if you are found 30% at fault for an accident due to lane splitting, you can only recover 70% of the damages awarded in your case.

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