If you are riding a motorcycle in California, you need to be fully aware of the laws that apply to drivers in general — and motorcycles specifically.

Motorcycle safety courses

Motorcycle safety courses are required for riders under 21. The state recommends the course for other riders seeking a motorcycle license. The California Motorcyclist Safety Program includes 15 hours of classroom training and “basic rider” course. Once you have completed the course, you will be issued the certificate you’ll need to obtain the M1 license.

Getting your Class M1 license

To operate a motorcycle legally, you must have a Class M1 license. You can apply for this license at the DMV, where you will be asked to pass a written test and a motorcycle skills test. You must be 16 years old or older to apply. Young riders (under 21) are required to pass a state-approved motorcycle driver education course. The first license (for the under 21 applicant) is a learner’s permit. If you drive a moped, motorized bicycle, or bicycle with a motor, you will need to apply for an M2 license.

Understanding motorcycle insurance

You must be insured to operate a motorcycle on California streets and roads. The minimum insurance you’re required to have has policy limits of $15,000 for bodily injury incurred by another, $30,000 for bodily injury to others in a collision, and $5,000 coverage for property damage. If a rider is involved in an accident that causes more than $750 in property damage, you must report it to the DMV — otherwise you may have your license suspended.

Law enforcement won’t submit the report; it’s up to you to report the accident within 10 days. It is advised that you purchase insurance with policy limits higher than the minimum. If you’re hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver, your own insurance will be accessed and the $15,000 limit can be exhausted within just a few days of hospitalization. 

The rules of the road for riders

As a rider, you have the same rights and responsibilities of all vehicle drivers. There is one significant difference in California than in most states: lane splitting is not illegal, but must be performed very carefully to avoid a serious accident. The DMV recommends that riders follow these rules:

  • Adhere to posted speed limits
  • Assume the driver of vehicles cannot see you
  • Avoid blind spots, especially in large commercial trucks
  • Be prepared to react if necessary
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Know the helmet requirements

In California, riders and their passengers must wear a helmet that meets the state’s requirements. Under the Vehicle Code, Division 12, Chapter 4, Article 7, 27803:

  • A driver and any passenger shall wear a safety helmet meeting requirements established pursuant to Section 27802 when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.
  • It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a).
  • It is unlawful to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycles, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a).
  • This section applies to persons who are riding on motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, or motorized bicycles operated on the highways.
  • For the purposes of this section, “wear a safety helmet” or “wearing a safety helmet” means having a safety helmet meeting the requirements of Section 27802 on the person’s head that is fastened with the helmet straps and that is of a size that fits the wearing person’s head securely without excessive lateral or vertical movement.

How to make a dirt bike street legal

If you have a dirt bike, you may want to make it street legal. The process can be complicated due to California’s very strict emission laws. To transform a dirt bike to a street-legal bike, you must install several components including tail lights, mirrors, a horn, headlights, reflectors, signals, an odometer, an approved exhaust system, a speedometer, and state-approved tires.

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Is an insurance company offering you less than you deserve in a settlement? Our legal team is relentless, dangerous, strategic, unstoppable, and fearsome to the insurance industry. Call The Swanson Law Group for a free case consultation.

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