Virginia Motorcycle Laws & Regulations

Virginia law imposes requirements, rules, and restrictions on motorcycle riders and their vehicles to help keep riders and their passengers safe. Still, motorcycle riders are often involved in serious accidents caused by other motorists.

If you’ve been injured in an accident on your motorcycle in Prince William County or elsewhere in Virginia, contact D. Michael Mullori, Jr., Attorney at Law for a free consultation. He can explain how the motorcycle laws in Virginia may affect your right to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.

What Are Motorcyclists Required to Do in Virginia?

A person must meet the following requirements to operate a motorcycle on Virginia roads:

  • Possess a valid motorcycle license or endorsement
  • Register the motorcycle with the Virginia DMV
  • Carry insurance that meets the minimum coverage limits set by law, or pay an uninsured motorist fee to the DMV
  • Wear a qualifying motorcycle helmet and, if the motorcycle does not have a windshield, eye or face protection

Do I Have to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in Virginia?

Virginia law states that a motorcycle operator must wear a helmet while riding their motorcycle. Helmets must meet or exceed the safety standards for motorcycle helmets set by the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets that meet or exceed these standards will usually bear a “Snell, “ANSI,” or “DOT” sticker or label. In addition, motorcycle operators must wear eye protection if their motorcycle lacks a windshield. Operators may use goggles, glasses with safety lenses, or a helmet with a face shield. Operators should only use clear face shields at night.

Must Motorcycle Passengers Wear Helmets in Virginia?

Virginia law also requires motorcycle passengers to wear helmets that meet the standards set by the Snell Memorial Foundation, ANSI, or the DOT. However, operators and passengers do not need to wear a motorcycle helmet while riding in an enclosed motorcycle or sidecar.

Will Not Wearing a Helmet Affect My Motorcycle Accident Claim?

Not wearing a helmet could affect the compensation you can pursue in a motorcycle accident claim. For instance, the insurance company might argue that you would not have suffered injuries if you wore a helmet during the crash. Also, Virginia follows a pure contributory negligence rule, which means a person who is even one percent responsible for an accident that injured them is barred from pursuing compensation.

A Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer can vigorously advocate for you if the insurance company or an at-fault driver tries to argue that you should be denied compensation because you were not wearing a helmet.

Is Lane-Splitting Legal in Prince William County?

Under law, motorcycle riders may not practice lane-splitting in Prince William County or elsewhere in Virginia. Lane-splitting refers to riding on top of road lines, lane dividers, or between rows of traffic. Although some motorcycle riders argue that lane-splitting allows them to get through heavy or stop-and-go traffic, the practice can put riders at risk of an accident because drivers will not expect a motorcycle to travel between lanes of traffic.

The law also gives motorcycles the right to the entire width of a traffic lane. No vehicle may occupy the same lane next to a motorcycle. If legal, drivers must move to an adjacent lane to pass a motorcycle. However, two motorcycles may ride side-by-side in the same lane.

What Are the Age Limits for Motorcycle Passengers?

Virginia imposes no age limit for motorcycle passengers. The law merely requires that a motorcycle operator who wishes to carry a passenger have a motorcycle designed to carry passengers. The motorcycle must also have separate footrests for passengers.

Can a Child Ride on the Back of a Motorcycle?

Virginia law does not set a minimum age for riding a motorcycle as a passenger. Passengers must use footrests, have a separate passenger seat, and wear eye protection and an approved helmet.

Legal Requirements to Get a Motorcycle License in Virginia

Anybody who wants to operate a motorcycle in Virginia must obtain a motorcycle license or a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. So how is someone able to get a motorcycle license in Virginia?

Virginia has separate licenses/endorsements for two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorcycles, or riders can obtain a license/endorsement to operate both types of motorcycles. Motorcycle riders who move to Virginia from another state may transfer their valid motorcycle license/endorsement to their Virginia license. Applicants who do not already have a driver’s license must first pass the two-part driver’s license knowledge exam.

Requirements for applicants under 18 include:

  • Completing an approved driver education program
  • Passing the motorcycle knowledge exam
  • Passing a vision screen
  • Holding a motorcycle learner’s permit for at least nine months
  • Passing the motorcycle road skills test

Applicants 18 and older must meet the following requirements to obtain a motorcycle license or endorsement:

  • Pass a vision screening
  • Pass the motorcycle knowledge exam
  • Hold a motorcycle learner’s permit for at least 30 days
  • Pass the motorcycle road skills test

Applicants age 19 and older may complete the Virginia Rider Training Program in place of passing the motorcycle knowledge exam and motorcycle road skills test. The course completion certification from the program can act as a temporary motorcycle learner’s permit in conjunction with a Virginia driver’s license, with holders required to apply for a motorcycle endorsement within 30 days of course completion.

Operators with a motorcycle learner’s permit must be supervised by a person at least 21 years old who is licensed to operate a motorcycle. In addition, they are not allowed to carry passengers.

Equipment Required to Drive a Motorcycle in Virginia

In Virginia, motorcycles must be adequately equipped. The equipment required to drive a motorcycle in Virginia includes:

  • At least one headlight that can project light out to at least 200 feet and no more than two auxiliary headlights
  • At least one brake light
  • At least one rear red light visible out to a distance of at least 500 feet
  • A taillight illuminating the license plate to make it visible from a distance of at least 50 feet
  • A factory-installed exhaust system or a third-party exhaust system comparable to factory-standard equipment that does not create excessive or unusual noise and has a muffler
  • A seat and footrests for each operator and passenger

Rules for Registering and Insuring a Motorcycle in Virginia

Riders who wish to operate a motorcycle on public roads in Virginia must have a valid registration. To register a motorcycle, an owner must:

  • Have the motorcycle titled in Virginia
  • Have required insurance or pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee
  • Complete and apply for registration

Operators must carry liability insurance with minimum policy limits of:

  • $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident of bodily injury/death liability coverage
  • $20,000 per accident of property damage liability coverage

Policies must also provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage equal to the liability coverage limits unless an insured rider rejects the coverage.

Must Motorcycles Pass a State Inspection in Virginia?

Virginia requires state inspections for motorcycles. The state inspection examines various equipment on the motorcycle, including:

  • Brakes
  • Seats
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Lights
  • Mirrors
  • Horn
  • Muffler and exhaust system
  • Tires, wheels, and rims
  • Windscreen (if equipped)
  • Fuel system

What Are Some Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

Many motorcycle accidents occur due to the negligence of other drivers who fail to share the road with motorcycles. Some of the most frequent causes of motorcycle accidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating/following too closely
  • Passing a motorcycle without moving over to the adjacent lane
  • Disregarding traffic signs/signals
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Turning or changing lanes without signaling/checking mirrors
  • Opening the door on a street-parked vehicle in front of an oncoming motorcycle
  • Drowsy driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Aggressive/reckless driving or road rage

The following road and weather conditions can cause or contribute to motorcycle accidents:

  • Potholes/broken pavement
  • Black ice
  • Debris in the roadway
  • Low lighting
  • Poor visibility from heavy fog or precipitation

How a Prince William County Lawyer Can Help with Your Motorcycle Accident Case

If you’ve been in an accident on your motorcycle, Prince William County injury lawyer Mike Mullori can help you seek compensation for your injuries and losses by:

  • Investigating the crash to secure evidence for your case, including police accident reports, accident scene photos, surveillance footage, and eyewitness testimony
  • Reviewing the evidence and working with accident reconstruction experts as necessary to determine what happened in the crash and identify the parties responsible for your injuries and losses
  • Documenting your injuries and expenses to calculate what fair compensation looks like in your case
  • Filing insurance and legal claims on your behalf to pursue compensation from insurers and at-fault parties
  • Vigorously negotiating for a fair settlement or taking your case to court and trial if the insurance company or negligent driver won’t agree to pay you the compensation you deserve

Contact a Prince William County Motorcycle Accident Law Firm Today

Don’t delay speaking to a motorcycle accident attorney in Prince William County about your legal options after a motorcycle crash. Contact Mike Mullori for a free no-obligation consultation to learn how he could help you pursue accountability and financial relief.

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