Living in the Pacific Northwest means being surrounded by miles of natural beauty that can sometimes be best experienced on the back of a motorcycle or scooter. However, it’s also no secret that a motorcyclist’s (or scooter operator’s) best defense against sustaining traumatic injury is proper training, constant awareness, reliable equipment, and taking appropriate safety precautions. For those who prefer this two-wheeled mode of transportation, or are thinking about the transition from driving to riding, here is a quick safety review of Washington State’s “on-road” motorcycle laws:
Are safety helmets required by law?
A: Yes, as of January 1, 2007. Following the letter of the law also means that your helmet must be certified by the manufacturer as meeting the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) standards listed under 49 CFR 571.218. The Washington law itself can be found at RCW.37.530
Is eye protection required by law?
A: Yes. Unless your motorcycle is equipped with a windshield, you are required to wear glasses, goggles, or a helmet with a face shield. RCW.37.530
Does Washington require the daytime use of a headlight?
A: Yes, pursuant to RCW 46.37.522. As an extra safety precaution, the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, 571.108, permits modulating headlights (which flicker quickly between high and low beams in order to make an approaching motorcycle more visible).
How loud can your motorcycle be?
A: This is a tricky one since plenty of riders believe that a louder exhaust note means higher visibility, and therefore, increased awareness from those around them. However, the letter of the law can be found at section 173-62-030 of the Washington Administrative Code. It specifies that exhaust systems or mufflers causing “excessive or unusual noise” are prohibited. The code section also specifies the decibel levels that are legally acceptable when measured at a distance of 50 feet.
Is lane –splitting allowed in Washington?
A: Unlike states such as California, Washington does not allow lane-splitting (riding between lanes of stopped or slower moving traffic, or moving between lanes to the front of the traffic stopped at a traffic light). RCW 46.61.608
What are the Washington State insurance requirements for motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds?
A: Believe it or not, Washington State does not require motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy, according to RCW 46.30.020. All other forms of insurance, including “first-party” coverage (i.e. PIP or MedPay), uninsured motorist coverage (UM), or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) are similarly “optional.”
However, it is always advisable to insure your motorcycle or other 2-wheeled vehicle to the extent possible. Most attorneys or medical providers that handle personal injury situations will tell you that at some point, they have come across a situation where a motorcyclist has caused serious injury to another person, possibly a pedestrian, or a passenger. These same attorneys and providers can also share stories of terrible situations where even a fully helmeted and armored motorcyclist or scooter operator has sustained life-altering traumatic injuries, only later to discover that the vehicle causing the collision was uninsured, or woefully underinsured. Other situations are simply a matter of gravel in the wrong curve causing a motorcyclist to lay down their bike. When you consider the fact that motorcycle insurance policies in Washington can be less expensive than similar policies for cars, and can offer very similar coverage amounts, it becomes clear why it’s important to invest in coverage regardless of the legal requirements, especially when you’re not protected by the “cage” of your automobile.