Texas Motorcycle Laws
Do motorcyclists in Texas have to wear a helmet? How can I get a motorcycle license? Is lane splitting legal? Find answers to these questions and more from our Houston motorcycle accident lawyers.
There's nothing quite like the feeling you get from cruising down the open road on your motorcycle and feeling the wind beat against you.
This rush draws many people to enjoy their right to ride; however, like other motor vehicles, motorcyclists must abide by certain laws to ensure safety on the roads.
Texas motorcycle laws and regulations help protect motorcyclists and other drivers by specifying certain rules riders must obey. These rules help keep reckless drivers in check and aim to the reduce the risk of a serious motorcycle accident.
Texas law specifically defines a motorcycle and other similar vehicles in the following way:
- Motorcycle - A motorized vehicle with a saddle for the rider and operating on a maximum of three wheels. This does not include tractors. Motorcycles are considered the same as passenger vehicles when it comes to registration, titling, and insurance requirements.
- Moped - A motorized cycle that does not operate faster than 30 MPH, has less than 2 hp, and less than 50 ccs displacement.
- Motor-driven cycle - A motorcycle with engine displacement of less than 250 ccs.
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The information below is extracted from the "Texas Department of Safety Motorcycle Operator's Manual," published by the Motorcycle Safety Unit. (PDF) Click here to read the full manual.
Texas Helmet Law & Passengers
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, all riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle or scooter. Motorcyclists age 21 or over are strongly encouraged to wear a helmet, but do not have a legal obligation to so long as they have completed a motorcycle safety course or purchased applicable insurance coverage.
Helmets must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 (FMVSS-218) and should fit snugly, be fastened when riding, and be free from defects and damage such as cracks, insecure padding and worn straps.
Due to Malorie's Law, enacted in January 2015 after a 19-year-old student was killed in a motorcycle accident, a motorcycle operator is only authorized to carry a passenger so long as 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 a DOT-approved helmet.
Operation & Licensing
The law specifies that all Texas riders must hold a valid motorcycle license (class M driver license), which they can obtain by completing a state-approved motorcycle training course, a written test, and a road test. In some circumstances, the road test may be waived. Adult motorcyclists between the ages of 18 and 24 who do not hold a valid driver license of any class must also complete an Adult Driver Education course.
Out-of-state applicants who already hold a valid motorcycle license from another state are not required to show proof of training course completion.
All registered motor vehicles in Texas - including motorcycles - are required to receive an annual inspection at an Official Motor Vehicle Inspection Station. When your motorcycle is passed, the certificate should be placed near the rear license plate.
Texas law requires a minimum list of equipment on motorcycles and scooters to be present and functioning properly. During the inspection, the following components will be evaluated:
- Wheel Assembly
- Exhaust System
- Tail Lamp
- Stop Lamp
- License Plate Lamp
- Rear Red Reflector
- Head Lamp (modulating permitted)
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
Parking, standing or stopping your motorcycle in a disabled person parking space without a permit can result in a $500-$750 fine. Texas motorcycle operators are also not allowed to park in the striped areas adjacent to a handicap parking zone, nor is parking on sidewalks permitted. Parking in these areas could prevent a person who is handicapped from gaining access to a business or residence.
Motorcycle operators are held to the same minimum insurance standards as drivers of motor vehicles (60/25/30). According to Texas auto insurance laws, motor vehicles and motorcycles must at least have the following liability coverage limits:
- $60,000 bodily injury coverage total per accident
- $25,000 property damage coverage per accident
- $30,000 bodily injury coverage for each injured person in an accident
Motorcycle Exhaust Decibel Levels
While many states have laws regarding the allowed decibel level for motorcycle exhaust and mufflers, there are currently no such statutes in Texas.
"Lane splitting," or when motorcyclists drive between lanes to pass slow or stopped vehicles, is not directly mentioned in Texas motorcycle laws.
However, statutes pertaining to all motorized vehicles (including motorcycles, mopeds and motor-driven cycles) effectively ban lane splitting as illegal.
Currently, there are lane splitting bills being reviewed by the state legislature which, if passed, will make lane splitting legal in Texas so long as traffic is moving slow. 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.
Houston Motorcycle Accident Cases
If you have additional questions about Texas motorcycle law or require aggressive legal representation for your accident case, feel free to contact our Houston motorcycle accident lawyers anytime. Attorney Neal Davis has 20 years of experience in hundreds of cases across Texas and the country.
We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve and secure the best possible outcome in your motorcycle accident case.
If we don't win, you don't pay - that's our No Fee Unless We Win Guarantee.