motorcycle statues to pay attention to

Riders often know traffic laws better than the average driver. They have to since law enforcement profiling of riders is still a thing many motorcyclists have to contend with, whether they’re just riding to and from work or school or out on a road trip with friends.

Traffic laws are passed on a state-by-state basis, meaning a different set of rules apply once you cross a border from one state to another.

Here are some laws to keep in mind when you’re out riding.

It’s Illegal to Discriminate Against Riders in Virginia

If someone tells you motorcycles aren’t allowed into this parking lot or parking garage or are illegal to use on any public roadways, they’re wrong. It’s illegal to deny riders access to any public roadway. Even a private facility usually can’t deny you and your fellow riders access if it was built using public funds.

In Which States Can You Use the HOV Lanes?

Motorcyclists are good for the environment since motorcycles pollute far less than traditional commuter cars and trucks. As such, many states encourage riding by allowing motorcyclists to use HOV lanes.

Riders can use HOV lanes in:

Motorcyclists can also travel in the I-77 Express Lanes for free and without a transponder in North Carolina.

Helmet Laws

It’s easy for riders visiting a state to be unaware of the local motorcycle helmet and safety gear requirements. For the states in which the Motorcycle Law Group operates, the laws are:

  • Virginia: Helmets and goggles or a face shield are required for riders under the age of 21. Goggles or face shields aren’t required if the motorcycle has a wind screen.
  • South Carolina: Helmets with a face shield or goggles are required for riders under the age of 21. A Face shield or goggles aren’t required if the motorcycle has a wind screen.
  • North Carolina: Helmets with a retention strap are required for all riders.
  • West Virginia: Helmets and shatter-resistant eye goggles or face shields are required for all riders.
  • Georgia: Helmets and eye protection are required for all riders. Riders aren’t required to wear eye protection if their motorcycle has a windshield.

What Are the Helmet Laws in the States Surrounding Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia?

Kentucky also requires riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet. The twist in Kentucky is that any rider who has a motorcycle learners permit or their motorcycle license for less than a year also must wear a helmet, regardless of age.

Tennessee has strict helmet laws. Every rider is required to wear one.

Only riders under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet in Ohio, as well as those who only hold a “novice license” in the state.

No Riding Backwards in West Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina

Some states were concerned enough with how riders sit on their bikes that they codified positioning in law. South Carolina, West Virginia and Georgia all have statutes requiring riders to sit “facing forwards” on a regular seat. South Carolina goes a step further and specifies, “A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.”

Do Headlights Always Have to Be On?

South Carolina, West Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia require any motorcycle on public streets or highways to have their headlights (or headlamps) on at all times.

Can You Run a Red Light on Your Motorcycle?

This depends on the state and situation. For example, in North Carolina if you’re stuck at an intersection that uses an actuated traffic signal, like an inductive loop, you may be able to legally go through a red. The rule is you must:

  • Come to a complete stop first
  • No other vehicle with the right of way is approaching the intersection
  • There aren’t any pedestrians crossing at or near the intersection
  • You have to wait at least three minutes

Virginia and South Carolina have similar statutes. In South Carolina the time requirement is only “120 seconds” instead of three minutes. In Virginia the time requirement is either two minutes or two complete cycles of the traffic light – whichever is shorter.

Get Help After a Motorcycle Accident in Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia or Georgia

The Motorcycle Law Group is well versed in the motorcycle laws of our states because we are the Firm that Rides®. We’ve even advocated on behalf of motorcyclists to get some laws changed, like making it legal for Virginia riders to use the HOV lanes in our state.

Knowing local motorcycle laws inside and out isn’t just for our own safety – it also helps us better represent our clients who have been injured in motorcycle accidents.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle crash, don’t hesitate to call 1-855-LAW-RIDERS (855-529-7433) to schedule your free consultation.