Motorcycles are more than just a mode of transportation – they are a hobby and pastime for many Texans. Although motorcycles are a fun way to get around and enjoy pleasant weather on the road, it’s vital for Texans to understand state motorcycle laws. Knowing these laws not only keeps riders safer on the road, but also helps ensure riders are compliant and needn’t worry about fines or legal problems due to parking or mechanical issues.
Motorcycles must have the same basic mechanical features as other motor vehicles – brakes, reflectors, head and taillights, and the other typical parts of a vehicle. Just like passenger cars, motorcycles must be registered and riders must obtain the proper motorcycle license. Some states place restrictions on exhaust and muffler decibels for sound concerns, but Texas has no such laws.
Just like passenger cars, motorcycle riders may only park their bikes in disabled parking spaces if they have the proper authorization and affix a disabled license plate or windshield placard to the bike. Additionally, a disabled license plate or windshield placard may not be given or lent to other motorists.
Some motorcycle riders believe that because their bikes are smaller than typical passenger cars, they may park in the striped areas near handicap parking spaces or other similar “Do Not Stop” areas of pavement. This is against the law. Motorcycles may not be parked on sidewalks, either.
In Texas, helmets are required for any rider under the age of 21. Riders over the age of 21 may forego wearing a helmet if they obtain the proper certification or insurance coverage. Such riders must either complete a Department of Motor Vehicles-approved Motorcycle Operating Training Course or obtain at least $10,000 in medical insurance. As with automobile insurance, these riders must keep a copy of their medical insurance card on their person while riding or stowed in the bike. However, Texas police are not permitted to stop or detain any rider solely to determine whether the rider has completed a training course or possesses medical insurance coverage.
Although the decision to wear a helmet is at the rider’s discretion if over the age of 21, helmets have been proven to save lives. Consider wearing a Department of Transportation-approved helmet while riding.
In Texas, no one under the age of five years may ride as a passenger on a motorcycle. Any passengers over the age of five and under 21 years old must wear a helmet. Passengers over the age of 21 may opt to ride without a helmet if the driver has the met the proper requirements. Additionally, the motorcycle must have a permanent passenger seat.
Many motorcyclists engage in a practice known as “lane splitting,” which is when a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by traversing between lanes of traffic. Some decry this practice as dangerous, and it can be in certain situations – specifically, when riders are splitting a lane with a larger vehicle or at high speeds. Texas does not prohibit lane splitting, but if you choose to split a lane with another motorcyclist, do so safely and at a reasonable speed.
Motorcycles are fantastic fun, but they are also inherently more dangerous than other motor vehicles because riders are almost entirely exposed. Passenger cars shield their drivers much more effectively than motorcycles. Therefore, if you ride a motorcycle in Texas, exercise more caution on the road than you might when driving a regular motor vehicle. Following the rules of the road and keeping these Texas laws in mind will reduce your risk of serious injury.