What you need to know before you turn on the ignition
There are well over 400,000 registered motorcycles in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, many Texans continue to hold onto inaccurate stereotypes about bikers.
Ask some Texans and they’ll tell you bikers are wild, law-breaking, car-hating, gang members.
These stereotypes can make it difficult for motorcyclists to get a fair shake when it comes to personal injury lawsuits.
The best way to prevent inaccurate stereotypes from hurting your case is to follow the law. In order to follow the law, you need to know the law. Fortunately, Enjuris is here to help.
What is a motorcycle?
Under Chapter 661 of the Texas Transportation Code, a motorcycle is:
“A motor vehicle designed to propel itself with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and having a saddle for the use of the rider. The term does not include a tractor or a three-wheeled vehicle equipped with a cab or occupant compartment, seat, and seat belt and designed to contain the operator in the cab or occupant compartment.”
As you can see, motorcycles are defined broadly in Texas and include everything from sport bikes to touring bikes to power cruisers.
Motorcycle licensing requirements
In addition to meeting the requirements necessary to obtain a regular driver’s license, Texans must meet additional requirements in order to obtain a Class M driver’s license to operate a motorcycle.
These requirements include, among other things, completing a DPS-approved motorcycle safety course and passing a written test and a road test.
Out-of-state applicants who already hold a valid motorcycle license from another state aren’t required to show proof of training course completion.
Texas motorcycle inspection requirements
All registered motor vehicles in Texas, including motorcycles, are required to receive an annual inspection at an official motor vehicle inspection station. If your motorcycle passes inspection, you’ll receive a certificate that should be placed near the rear license plate.
Texas law requires certain motorcycle equipment to be present and functioning properly at all times. During the inspection, the following components will be evaluated:
- Brakes (system)
- Wheel assembly
- Exhaust system
- Tail lamp
- Stop lamp
- License plate lamp
- Rear red reflector
- Head lamp
- Motor, serial, or vehicle identification number
Can you use ground effect lighting on your motorcycle?
LED ground effect lighting equipment (lighting attached to the underbody of a motorcycle for purposes of illuminating the body of the motorcycle or the ground below) can be used in Texas so long as the light emits a non-flashing amber or white light.
Parking, standing, or stopping your motorcycle in a disabled-person parking space without a permit can result in up to a $750 fine. Texas motorcycle operators aren’t allowed to park in the striped areas adjacent to a handicap parking zone either, nor is parking on sidewalks permitted. Parking in these areas could prevent a person who’s handicapped from gaining access to a business or residence.
Minimum insurance requirements
In Texas, motorcycles are treated like cars when it comes to insurance requirements. Here’s the minimum liability coverage for motorcycles:
- $30,000 bodily injury coverage for each injured person in an accident
- $60,000 bodily injury coverage total per accident
- $25,000 property damage coverage per accident
This coverage is known as “30/60/25” coverage.
Are mopeds required to have liability insurance?
Even though mopeds have smaller engines and operate at lower speeds, they still require the same amount of liability insurance as motorcycles in Texas.
Motorcycle helmet laws
All riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle or scooter. Motorcyclists who are 21 years of age or older are strongly encouraged to wear a helmet, but don’t have a legal obligation to do so if they’ve completed a motorcycle safety course or purchased an appropriate health insurance plan that covers motorcycle accidents.
Motorcycle passenger laws
Due to Malorie's Law, enacted in January 2015 after a 19-year-old Texas A&M University student was killed in a motorcycle accident, a motorcycle operator is only authorized to carry passengers if the motorcycle is equipped with a permanent passenger seat, handholds, and footrests. Passengers must be at least 5 years old, and passengers under 21 are required to wear an approved helmet.
The term "lane splitting" refers to when a motorcyclist drives between lanes to pass slow or stopped vehicles.
While lane splitting isn’t explicitly mentioned in Texas motorcycle laws, statutes pertaining to all motorized vehicles effectively prohibit lane splitting.
The American Motorcyclist Association endorses safe lane splitting and helps groups and individuals working around the country to bring legal lane splitting and/or filtering to their states.
While dangerous in certain situations, lane splitting done right is seen as potentially safer for riders by minimizing a motorcyclist's exposure to vehicles that are frequently changing speeds on congested highways, increasing a rider's visibility because the motorcycle is moving relative to other traffic, reducing rider fatigue from constant shifting and braking in traffic, lowering the risk of engine damage for air-cooled engines, and diminishing a motorcyclist's exposure to excessive heat and car exhaust.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, the other party involved in the accident may argue that you violated a motorcycle law and that you shouldn’t be able to recover compensation as a result. Don’t just take the other party’s word for it, meet with an experienced Texas attorney and find out what options you have.