Some people ride motorcycles for the freedom and excitement they provide. But that unfortunately comes with an increased risk of death or serious injury since they offer no protection after a collision. Tragically, there were another three fatal motorcycle accidents in the past few days in Tarrant County. That made us want to get the word out about motorcycle safety.
Temps are up, so are bicycle and motorcycle accidents in Fort WorthYesterday kicked off the annual Tour de Fort Worth sponsored by Fit Worth and it was an honor to get to ride with our wonderful Mayor Betsy Price. But the warmer weather unfortunately brings an increase in the number of bicycle and motorcycle accidents in Fort Worth. Saturday sadly marked the latest motorcycle death in our area. Texas leads in the country in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes with almost 500 riders losing their lives each year. And though it happened it happened in New Hampshire on Friday, it was horrible to read that seven people riding motorcycles died when a man who was driving in the wrong lane crashed into the group of former Marines. He had to be either texting while driving or driving while intoxicated, or both.
What causes all of the bicycle and motorcycle accidents?Bicycles and motorcycles are similar. They are small and offer no protection from injuries. Drivers often don't see them or ignore them; some probably consider them an annoyance. They are often ridden by younger people who enjoy going fast and take unsafe risks. So there's a constant friction between the motorists on four wheels and riders on two wheels. On the one hand, motorists must yield the right of way, pay attention to vehicles on the road, slow down, stop looking at cell phones while they drive, and not drink and drive, the usual causes of crashes. But cyclists must also obey the rules of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs, and not engage in risky maneuvers. If there is a crash, the negligence of all drivers and riders will be weighed. There are too many motorists and bicycle/motorcycle riders who don't seem to know basic traffic laws -- or follow them. So here's a refresher.
Few people love freedom more than a motorcycle driver in the Lone Star State. While Texas tends to frown on imposing too many regulations in any field, most will agree that Texas motorcycle laws enhance safety for drivers, passengers, and others on the road. Texas boasts more motorcycle owners than any other state in the country. This reflects the Lone Star State’s well-known culture emphasizing freedom and rugged individualism. The state’s unique landscapes, wide-open spaces, and huge highway system also attract millions of motorcycling enthusiasts from around the country. Everyone, from both Texas and other states, however, should learn the specific rules governing the use of motorcycles in the state. Since most people have less familiarity with motorcycle rules and regulations than with laws for automobiles, and since laws governing vehicle use vary from state to state, we have produced a handy guide to get you familiar with the rules of the road. This guide covers the most important aspects of motorcycle ownership and operation, but is not a comprehensive list of all laws, rules, and regulations. If you need additional information, make sure to contact the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Required EquipmentFirst, Texas state law requires that motorcycles all have the equipment listed below in proper working order. All items on the list are essential for the proper and safe operation of the motorcycle and to ensure the safety of others sharing the road with motorcyclists.
- License Plate Lamp
- Rear Red Reflector
- Head Lamp (1) (modulating permitted)
- Vehicle Identification Number
- Wheel Assembly
- Exhaust System
- Tail Lamp (1)
- Stop Lamp (1)
Earning Your Class M LicenseIn Texas, drivers cannot apply for a Class M motorcycle license until they have completed and passed a motorcycle operator training course approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety. This DPS approved map of trainers can let you know if an approved course is taught near you. The basic course covers a wide range of topics pertaining to motorcycle safety, including
- Tips on the safe riding of a motorcycle
- What clothing will protect you while riding
- Avoiding obstacles and other highway hazards
- How to get out of difficult or life-threatening traffic situations
Does Texas Have a Motorcycle Helmet Law?While Texas does have a law requiring some to wear a helmet, most can escape that mandate by meeting some very modest requirements. To get an exemption from wearing a helmet in Texas, you must be at least 21 years old and also carry proof that you have at least $10,000 in medical insurance. Finally, you must also have passed an approved motorcycle safety course. While the law permits helmetless riding, experts strongly urge that motorcycle drivers and riders wear helmets. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing death and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injury. Most motorcycle fatalities are due to head injury and helmets represent the best way to protect drivers and riders from serious injury. For those mandated to wear helmets, Texas requires that the headgear meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218. Furthermore, experts say that helmets should fit the head snugly, but comfortably and also be properly secured. Cracks or dents can impair the ability of the helmet to protect the head. Also, those with proper protection can prevent eye damage, some sunburn, and hearing loss. Texas law forbids law enforcement from pulling over motorcycles solely to determine if the driver carries proper insurance or has taken the Department of Public Safety approved motorcycle safety course.
Laws Pertaining to PassengersMotorcyclists cannot carry passengers in Texas unless the vehicle is designed to carry more than one individual. The motorcycle also must have approved footrests and handholds designed to accommodate a passenger. Age limits pertain to passengers on motorcycles as well. Motorcyclists cannot carry passengers under eight years of age and less than four feet nine inches in height. Texas law requires children of this age and size to ride in an approved child safety seat, which motorcycles cannot legally or safely carry. All passengers under the age of 21 must wear a helmet that is legal for the road in Texas, but those over 21 and meeting legal requirements can ride helmet free.
Laws Pertaining to ParkingBecause motorcycles in some ways function more like bicycles than automobiles, many people mistakenly believe that their bike’s portability allows them to escape parking laws that govern motor vehicles. Texas has specific laws and regulations pertaining to parking a motorcycle. Failure to adhere to these could result in fines. Most laws pertain to parking a motorcycle in an area marked for disabled drivers or passengers. Texas motorcycle laws prohibit the parking of such vehicles in disabled labeled spaces unless it carries a disabled license plate or a special state-issued removable windshield identification marker. No driver can use the marker unless transporting an officially approved disabled individual. Also, one cannot lend the marker to another even if that person has a disability themselves. Many municipalities have also outlawed standing in a disabled parking area even if the driver does not leave the vehicle. Additionally, drivers may not park their motorcycles in such a way as to block access or curb ramps installed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Motorcycles also should never be parked on sidewalks, even in areas approved for bicycle parking.
Exhaust and Muffler LawsMost states have laws that govern the function of a motorcycle muffler and also regulate the decibel levels produced. While Texas has no laws governing either mufflers or decibels, drivers should remain aware that when operating their motorcycle in other states, laws and regulations governing noise may apply.
Is Lane Splitting Legal In Texas?Many states have no laws or regulations prohibiting or governing lane splitting. This describes a situation where two separate motorcycles drive side by side in the same lane. Drivers from both Texas and other states should remain aware that Texas forbids this type of activity. The Texas Transportation Code mandates that those caught lane splitting may find themselves ticketed and liable for a fine. Although a recent study out of California indicated that lane splitting produces some benefits, such as reducing congestion and enhancing safety, Texas still forbids the practice and will ticket and fine those engaging in the practice.
What Equipment Is Checked in a Legal Inspection?All vehicles registered in the state of Texas, from tractor trailers to motorcycles, must pass an annual safety inspection. This ensures that all vehicles meet minimum safety requirements for operation on the road. Regular inspections help to protect both drivers and other vehicles on the road from accidents caused by malfunctioning equipment. A motorcycle inspection will check the following items to ensure that they meet minimum legal safety requirements under Texas motorcycle laws:
- Tail Lamp
- Stop Lamp
- License Plate Lamp
- Rear Red Reflector
- Head Lamp
- Brakes (system)
- Wheel Assembly
- Exhaust System
- Motor, Serial, or Vehicle Identification Number.