2-Wheel Adventures: Rules of the Road


We all know safety is an extremely important part of motorcycle riding, but just because you know how to ride safely doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in compliance with all the actual rules. While you probably have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed on your home turf, if you’re headed out on a trip, don’t forget you’ll need to spend a little time making sure you meet the requirements in the states you’ll be visiting.

All 50 states require some form of motorcycle-specific licensing or endorsement on the standard driver’s license. Fortunately, as with a passenger vehicle driver’s license, your motorcycle license/endorsement is valid when traveling to another state. You’ll still need to make sure you meet all the specifics in terms of equipment and its use, whether it is helmet, goggles, handlebar height, passenger footrest, mirrors, muffler, daytime lights, etc.

These regulations can vary widely from state to state; for instance, safety helmet requirements will often depend on the age and sometimes the experience of the rider. Some states also have their own little particularities: Virginia and the District of Columbia don’t allow radar detection, several states only allow headphones in one ear, and in some states the regulations depend on the age of your bike. Insurance requirements also differ from state to state, so make sure you’re covered before you hit the road.

Keep in mind the rules of the road can also differ from what you’re used to, with some states’ laws specifically addressing things like lane splitting and operating two abreast in the same lane (only Virginia and Vermont expressly prohibit this). Don’t forget that speed limits on highways and other roads will vary among states, too. About the only law that is the same no matter where you go is the maximum allowed blood alcohol concentration – .08 g/dL is the legal limit in all states.

You can find quick reference charts summing up the state equipment requirements from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). The AMA also provides a comprehensive state-by-state guide of motorcycle laws, both on- and off-road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website is also a good resource for information on motorcycle safety guidelines and state laws.