You get a certain sense of freedom and peace when you ride your motorcycle in Seattle. Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and awe-inspiring ocean views provide a beautiful backdrop for each journey. As a biker, you encounter that freedom and beauty each time you hit the road, but you must make room for caution as well.
Sometimes, other drivers don’t look out for bikers the way they should. If you are a biker, you already know how important it is to drive defensively and protect yourself from harm. You should also get to know Washington State motorcycle laws. You will know your legal rights and understand your responsibilities.
In Washington State, there are currently 236,153 registered motorcycles sharing the road with other vehicles. 450,362 licensed drivers have motorcycle endorsements. Bikers are an integral part of everyday Seattle life because motorbiking saves transportation costs and simplifies parking. It transforms even the most boring commute into an adventure.
Private passenger vehicle drivers and big rig operators don’t always respect a motorcyclist’s right to share the road. They sometimes fail to share a lane or cut off a biker’s right of way. Sometimes, vehicle drivers simply don’t notice a biker because they’re in a blind spot or visually out of their range. Any one of these lapses in motorcycle awareness or vehicle etiquette has the power to cause serious or catastrophic injuries. A focus on motorcycle laws can help motorcyclists understand their rights and responsibilities. It can help vehicle drivers understand that their lack of motorcycle awareness and vehicle etiquette might also be against the law.
Motorcyclists in Washington State must have a valid motorcycle license, also known as a motorcycle endorsement. This addition to a regular Washington driver’s license usually requires the completion of a motorcycle education course. In this course, prospective motorcycle riders learn about motorcycle safety and handling through practical training.
Motorcycle operation requires skills that are different compared to driving a car, riding a bicycle, or operating other motor vehicles. Washington State motorcycle endorsement ensures that motorcycle riders have the knowledge and skills needed to safely enjoy what these vehicles have to offer.
To begin, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license. Following the competition of a permit knowledge test and permit riding skills test, you’ll receive your Washington State motorcycle permit. You’ll also need to complete an endorsement knowledge test consisting of written questions that will survey your knowledge of Washington’s motorcycle laws and defensive driving. A Washington motorcycle endorsement can be obtained at an approved motorcycle training school.
To legally operate your motorcycle on public roads, you must register it with the Washington State Department of Licensing. You can refer to the DOL’s website for information about the necessary requirements for registration.
As with cars and other motor vehicles, Washington motorcycle riders are required to carry insurance. Minimum coverage includes $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person and $50,000 per accident claim.
Washington vehicle laws include motorcycles within the formal “motor vehicle” definition. Many of the same laws apply to cars and two-wheeled, motorized vehicles designed for public roads. You’ll find a full listing and the complete text of state vehicle and motorcycle laws within the Revised Codes of Washington, Title 46 RCW, Motor Vehicles. If you prefer not to wade through the formal text, here are a few of the basic laws without the legalese:
Rules of the Road 46,61: Motorcycle riders must follow the same driving laws as vehicle drivers. Each section of the RCW Rules of the Road contains a list of guidelines with links to detailed code explanations. This section covers 12 specific categories beginning with “Obedience and Effect of Traffic Laws,” to “Operation of non-motorized vehicles.” Where applicable, sections list criminal penalties for failure to comply.
These Rules of the Road apply specifically to motorcycle riders:
The RCW details additional Motorcycle laws Under Chapter 46.37, Vehicle Lighting and Other Equipment. RCW 46.37.530, explains equipment requirements applicable to motorcycles, mopeds, and other two-wheeled vehicles.
Washington motorcycle laws require the use of DOT-approved motorcycle helmets for riders and passengers of motorcycles. This vital piece of safety equipment can be life-saving in the event of a motorcycle accident. Although not legally required, you should also use eye protection and protective clothing, if possible.
Motorcyclists engage in lane splitting while weaving between cars in slow or stopped traffic. This action, legal in only the State of California, is prohibited under Washington law.
Motorcyclists are vulnerable when accidents occur. Unlike vehicles, they have no protective barriers. Few have restraints or passive safety systems. During an accident, vulnerability and lack of protection increase a motorcyclist’s potential for serious and fatal injury.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 crash statistics show that motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of nationwide traffic fatalities, while motorcycles made up only 3 percent of registered vehicles. The Washington Department of Transportation’s 2015 Annual Collision Summary reveals that motorcycle accidents occurred an average of every four hours in the state. Out of 2,440 documented motorcycle collisions that year, cyclists and their passengers sustained 76 fatal injuries, 406 serious injuries, and 1,562 minor injuries.
Motorcycle laws and safety guidelines aren’t designed to be intentionally restrictive. They’re in place because all drivers need guidelines that help keep bikers safe. In furtherance of this quest, the US Department of Transportation sets aside May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Their Share the Road campaign and other safety initiatives draw attention to biker safety and biker awareness all year long.
If you or a loved one were injured in a motorcycle accident, you need a law firm that’s dedicated to protecting your legal rights. Contact Boohoff Law at (877) 999-9999 or complete our contact form at Boohoff Law online. We’ll schedule a consultation to discuss your case and determine if we can help you.
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