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What You Need to Know About Motorcycle Laws in Washington State

There are many things to consider when you own and operate a motorcycle. Not only do you need to be aware of the dangers of riding, but you also need to be familiar with the specific laws and regulations that apply to motorcycle laws in Washington state.

In Washington State, there are several laws governing everything from helmet use to lane splitting, and it’s vital that all riders are familiar with them. This article will provide a general overview of the essential motorcycle laws in Washington State so that you can ride safely and legally.

Legal Definition of a Motorcycle

In Washington State, a motorcycle is defined as a “[A] motor vehicle designed to travel on not more than three wheels, not including any stabilizing conversion kits” (RCW 46.04.330).

Do All Riders Need a Motorcycle Endorsement?

Yes, all riders must have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license to operate a motorcycle legally in Washington State. The only exception to this rule is if you are riding a electric bicycle or moped, which does not require an endorsement. To get a motorcycle endorsement, you must pass written and on-cycle skills tests.

Registration of Your Motorcycle

All motorcycles must be registered with the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). When registering your motorcycle, you must provide proof of ownership, insurance, and identity. You will also need to pay a registration fee based on the weight and type of your motorcycle.

 

What Are the Motorcycle Laws in Washington State?

Several laws apply specifically to motorcycles in Washington State. Some of these laws are listed below:

Motorcycle Helmets

In Washington State, all motorcycle riders and passengers must wear helmets that comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. This means that the helmet must have a label certifying that it meets or exceeds the FMVSS 218 standard and be fastened securely on the head. If caught riding without a helmet, you can be subject to a fine of up to $250.

Motorcycle Lighting

Your motorcycle must have a headlight visible from 300 feet away and be turned on at all times while the engine is running (RCW 46.37.523). Additionally, you may want to consider adding auxiliary lights to your motorcycle for increased visibility.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, or riding between lanes of traffic, is not explicitly illegal in Washington State. However, it is generally not recommended as it can be dangerous and put you at risk of being hit by a car. If you choose to lane split, do so cautiously and only when traffic is moving slowly.

Motorcycle Passengers

A passenger on your motorcycle must be seated in a position that gives them proper back and foot support. Additionally, they must have a separate set of footpegs or a passenger seat with footpegs. If your motorcycle does not have a passenger seat, your passenger must be seated behind you and hold onto your waist, hips, or belt.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

All motorcycles must have an exhaust system that is in good working condition and does not emit excessive noise. Additionally, aftermarket exhaust systems are not allowed unless the Washington State Patrol has approved them. If your motorcycle is found to be excessively loud, you may be subject to a fine.

Motorcycle Insurance Required

In Washington State, all motorcycle riders are required to have liability insurance. This insurance will cover damages you cause to another person in an accident. The minimum coverage required is $50,000 for injury per accident, $25,000 for injury per person, and $10,000 for property damage per accident.

Passing Stop-and-Go traffic on the Right

In Washington State, it is legal to pass stop-and-go traffic on the right if there is room to do so safely. However, you must use caution when giving and be sure not to exceed the speed limit. Additionally, you must signal your intention to pass before changing lanes.

Motorcycles in HOV Lanes

When riding a motorcycle in an HOV lane, you must have the proper decal or pass displayed. Additionally, you must be riding alone – no passengers are allowed. You may be subject to a fine if caught riding with a passenger in an HOV lane.

Motorcycle License Plates

All motorcycles must have a license plate securely fastened to the back of the motorcycle. The plate must be visible and legible at all times and free of any obstructions. You may be subject to a fine if you are caught riding without a license plate.

Motorcycle Endorsement Required

To ride a motorcycle in Washington State, you must have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. To get this endorsement, you will need to pass a written test and a skills test. The written test covers the Washington State Driver’s Guide material, and the skills test covers basic motorcycle maneuvers.

Do Not Ride with More than Two Abreast

It is against the law in Washington state to ride more than two abreast, which means that you and your fellow riders must stay in a single file when riding together. Riding in a group can be enjoyable, but follow this law to avoid getting pulled over.

Do a Sound Check on Your Bike Before You Ride

Make sure your motorcycle is not excessively loud by doing a sound check before you ride. You can start your engine and then rev it a few times. If the sound is too loud, adjust your exhaust before you head out on the road.

Washington Administrative Code (WAC) §173-62-030 prohibits any person from operating or riding a motorcycle on public highways unless the motorcycle is equipped with an exhaust system in good working order and constant operation.

Additionally, the exhaust system must not emit excessive noise. Aftermarket exhaust systems are only allowed if the Washington State Patrol has approved them. If your motorcycle is found to be excessively loud, you may be subject to a fine.

Check Your Bike Gear Before You Ride

Make sure your motorcycle helmet meets the safety standards set by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Additionally, check that your ride is properly attired in brightly colored clothing to increase your visibility to other motorists.

Follow the Speed Limit

The speed limit for motorcycles in Washington State is 60 miles per hour. However, this may vary depending on the road you are traveling on, so check the posted speed limit before you ride.

Be Careful When Passing Cars

When passing a car, signal and move into the other lane gradually. Do not cut off the vehicle you are giving, and check your blind spot before changing lanes.

For motorcyclists, it is essential to be aware of the state’s motorcycle laws. These laws exist to help keep riders safe and to ensure that everyone on the road is following the same rules. By knowing and following the motorcycle laws in Washington state, riders can help make the streets safer for everyone and avoid motorcycle collisions.

FAQs

Do you need a license to ride a motorcycle in Washington state?

Yes, you need a license to operate a motorcycle in Washington state. You can either get a motorcycle endorsement on your current driver’s license or you can get a separate motorcycle license.

Can motorcycles go in between cars in Washington state?

No, motorcycles are not legal to go between cars in Washington state. And while we’re on the topic, riders should also avoid lane splitting, which is when a motorcycle rides in between lanes of traffic.

What size motorcycle requires a license in Washington state?

Any motorcycle with an engine size of 50 cc or more requires a license in Washington state. Since most motorcycles have an engine size of at least 50 cc, this means that almost all motorcycles will need a license.

What is the fine for riding a motorcycle without a license in WA?

The fine for riding a motorcycle without a license in Washington state is $386. 

What is the minimum age to ride a motorcycle in WA?

The minimum age to operate a motorcycle in Washington state is 16 years old. 

What happens if you get pulled over without a motorcycle endorsement in Washington?

If you are pulled over without a motorcycle endorsement in Washington state, you will be issued a traffic infraction. The fine for this infraction is $386.

Do I need to take a motorcycle safety course?

You are not required to take a motorcycle safety course in Washington state, but it is recommended. A safety course can help you learn how to operate a motorcycle properly and avoid motorcycle accidents.

What is the motorcycle helmet law in Washington state?

All riders and passengers on motorcycles must wear helmets that meet or exceed DOT standards. Additionally, all riders must have eye protection while riding.

Do I need insurance to ride a motorcycle in Washington State?

Yes, you must have liability insurance to ride a motorcycle in Washington state. The minimum amount of liability insurance you must have is $25,000/$50,000/$10,000.

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