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Motorcycle Laws in California

California has perfect weather and beautiful landscapes for motorcyclists.

However, if you ride a motorcycle in California, you are expected to know and obey motorcycle laws.

Motorcycle laws in California you need to know include:

Table of Contents

You Must Have a Learner’s Permit

Before obtaining your motorcycle license, you must apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

To obtain a motorcycle permit, you must pass a knowledge test and a vision exam.

The knowledge test covers the rules of the road for motorcycles, motorcycle safety, and a motorcyclist’s responsibility.

Pass a Riding Test

Before obtaining a California motorcycle license, you must pass a riding test specifically for motorcycle riding. In addition, individuals under 21 years old must take and pass the California Motorcyclist Safety Program offered by the California Highway Patrol. 

If you are over 21 years old, you can provide a certificate of completion for the CHP safety program or take and pass the driving course offered by the DMV. 

What’s Considered a Hit and Run Accident in California?

Typically, after an accident, drivers in California have a responsibility to:

  • Stop their vehicle (at the scene or a safe location nearby)
  • Give their name and address to other parties (including drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc.)
  • Exchange license and registration information, if requested.

This is required any time a driver knows (or should know) that an accident results in property damage, injury, or death.

A hit-and-run accident is considered a crime in California. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the accident.

Required Financial Responsibility

All motorists must provide proof of financial responsibility when registering a motor vehicle or renewing a registration, including a motorcycle. Acceptable forms of financial responsibility for motorcycles include:

  • Motor vehicle liability insurance policy
  • DMV-issued self-insurance certificate
  • Cash deposit with the DMV of $35,000
  • A $35,000 surety bond from a company licensed to do business in the state

Most motorcyclists purchase motorcycle insurance to satisfy this requirement. The minimum motorcycle insurance coverage is $15,000 for one person’s bodily injury or death ($30,000 per accident) and $5,000 in property damage coverage.

Liability insurance does not cover your motorcycle or your person in a motorcycle crash. Therefore, you might consider purchasing optional insurance coverage, including collision, comprehensive, underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, and Personal Injury Protection or PIP (no-fault insurance). 

Motorcycle Helmet Law in California

Statistics show that wearing a motorcycle helmet significantly reduces the risk of head injuries in a motorcycle accident. 

California Vehicle Code §27803 requires a motorcyclist and rider to wear a motorcycle helmet that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle if you do not wear a helmet. 

Seats and Handlebars for Motorcycles in California

California law prohibits operating a motorcycle if the motorcycle is equipped with either of the following: 

  • Handlebars are positioned so that the driver’s hands are more than six inches above their shoulder height when sitting on the motorcycle with their hands on the grips; OR,
  • A motorcycle seat is positioned so that the driver’s feet cannot touch the ground when they are sitting on the motorcycle.

These safety features are designed to reduce the risk of a motorcycle accident. A rider must be able to put their feet firmly on the ground when stopped to prevent the motorcycle from tipping over. Likewise, having their hands too far above their shoulders could reduce their ability to control the motorcycle.

Transporting Passengers on a Motorcycle

If you have a passenger on your motorcycle, you must have a seat securely fastened to the bike at the rear of your seat. In addition, there must be footrests for the rider to place their feet when the motorcycle is in motion. Passengers may also ride in a sidecar attached to the motorcycle designed to carry a passenger.

California Lane Splitting Law for Motorcycles

California passed a lane-splitting law in August 2016, allowing motorcyclists to ride between two lanes of traffic on a highway. The highway must have two more lanes traveling in the same direction. Proponents of lane splitting allege that riders are less likely to be rear-ended in traffic if they can ride between the lanes of traffic.

Motorcycle Safety Equipment

All motorcycles built after 1973 must have front and back turn signals. If the motorcycle was built after 1978, the headlights must always be on while riding. In addition, all motorcycles in California must have at least one mirror.

State codes require that motorcycles built in 2013 or later must have exhaust systems that comply with state law. These systems cannot be altered in a way that violates emission codes.

Listening Devices When Riding a Motorcycle

Riders need to be able to hear what is going on around them while riding. Therefore, helmets may only have one ear-phone speaker. That allows the rider to be aware of their surroundings and be able to hear a phone conversation or music.

Getting Help With a Motorcycle Accident Claim

The damages caused by a motorcycle accident can be extensive. Riders often sustain severe injuries in a motorcycle crash. A motorcycle cannot provide the same protection from injuries as a vehicle.

Common injuries in motorcycle accidents include:

The cost of medical care can be high. A rider may also incur substantial lost wages from being out of work after a motorcycle crash. Additionally, the rider could sustain a permanent impairment that diminishes their earning potential and decreases their quality of life.

California is an at-fault state for automobile accidents. You have the burden of proving that the other driver caused the accident to recover compensation for injuries. Without evidence proving fault and causation, you cannot establish liability for damages.

Breaking California Motorcycle Laws Could Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

Riders who break traffic laws could be accused of contributing to the cause of the motorcycle crash. For example, the insurance company for the other driver may allege that your handlebars did not meet the required specifications. As a result, your control of the motorcycle was impaired, which contributed to the cause of the crash.

California’s contributory fault laws state that your compensation for damages can be reduced if you are partially to blame for the cause of the accident. The amount of the reduction equals your percentage of fault.

Insurance companies often try to blame motorcyclists for accidents they did not cause. Therefore, it is best to avoid talking to an insurance adjuster until you consult with a Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer. The statements you make to the claims adjuster could be construed as admitting fault.

Contact Our Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Motorcycle accidents can cause catastrophic injuries. Another driver or at-fault party could be financially liable for your economic and non-economic damages.

Call our law office at (877) 300-4535 or contact the M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers to discuss your rights with an experienced Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer.



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