If you’re a motorcyclist or someone who is planning to ride a motorcycle in North Carolina, you may have wondered, “What exactly are the motorcycle laws in North Carolina?” While most of the same traffic laws that apply to other motor vehicles also apply to motorcycles, motorcyclists have several unique privileges and restrictions. These vary from state to state to some degree.
At Ward Black Law, our injury attorneys have worked with thousands of accident victims in Greensboro and throughout North Carolina. We understand how devastating a preventable accident can be for motorcycle riders and their families.
To help protect and inform our motorcyclist neighbors, we present the following summary of North Carolina’s most important motorcycle law.
North Carolina requires all motorcycle riders, including drivers and passengers, to wear helmets at all times on the road. This requirement applies to moped riders and passengers as well.
Helmets must be properly secured with a retention strap and comply with the following criteria outlined in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 218:
Any motorcyclists or passengers who ride with a non-compliant helmet, such as a novelty helmet, or no helmet at all, could be found guilty of legal infractions. The consequences of neglecting to wear a compliant helmet could include fines and related court costs, not to mention potentially serious injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
For the most part, motorcycles are subject to the same traffic laws as any other motor vehicle on North Carolina roads. Motorcyclists are required to indicate their turns, observe speed limits, traffic obey signals, and follow right-of-way rules like other drivers.
Several unique rules also apply specifically to motorcycle and moped riders, such as:
Lane-splitting is a controversial practice subject to a varied patchwork of laws and restrictions throughout the United States. Lane-splitting involves a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.
Some believe motorcycle riders who engage in lane-splitting are reckless thrill-seekers trying to race through traffic, but the truth is that many motorcyclists who lane-split do so for safety reasons.
Lane-splitting means fewer vehicles clog up lanes of traffic in congested areas and make motorcycle riders less likely to be rear-ended by other drivers. Even low-speed collisions can seriously or fatally injure motorcyclists with larger motor vehicles, so many riders understandably take precautions to avoid rear-end crashes with distracted drivers in rush hour traffic scenarios.
Despite the arguable advantages to lane-splitting, the practice’s legality is questionable in North Carolina. The state has no laws specifically permitting or outlawing lane-splitting. However, motorcyclists who lane-split may face charges under broader motorcycle safety laws.
Drivers who wish to operate their motorcycles legally have to obtain special permits and endorsements. Motorcyclists may apply for a motorcycle learner permit with the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if they already hold a provisional, standard, or commercial driver’s license. Drivers must pass a motorcycle knowledge test, road sign identification test, and vision exam during the permit application process.
Motorcycle riders 18 years of age or younger must provide proof of parental or guardian consent and must pass an approved motorcycle safety course to obtain a learner’s permit. Permits are valid for 12 months and may only be renewed once for an additional six-month period. Riders with motorcycle learner permits are prohibited from carrying passengers.
Motorcyclists who wish to apply for a motorcycle endorsement must hold a fully-provisioned regular or commercial driver’s license. To obtain the necessary endorsement, drivers must pass a motorcycle knowledge test and a practical, off-street motorcycle skills test.
North Carolina drivers are not required to hold either a driver’s license or a motorcycle endorsement to operate mopeds. However, moped operators must be at least 16 years of age and observe applicable helmet laws.
To prevent accidents and save lives, North Carolina imposes specific minimum standards on the safety equipment required for motorcycle owners and operators. To be considered “street legal,” North Carolina motorcycles must have:
The following safety equipment is also recommended for motorcyclists, although none of these items are required by North Carolina law:
Motorcycles must be registered and insured in North Carolina like any other vehicle. Motorcycle registrations typically take seven days and may only be completed in person at official vehicle and license plate renewal locations in the state.
The registration process requires specific fees and several relevant documents, such as:
Motorcycles must be re-registered every year, and riders must carry minimum amounts of basic liability insurance to cover any damages that may result from potential accidents. These minimums include:
Yes, all motor vehicles, including motorcycles, are required to pass annual safety inspections before owners can complete their yearly registration renewals. Licensed mechanics inspect the following components during state inspections:
Even safe and careful motorcycle drivers who comply with all of the above laws and recommendations may still become involved in collisions through the negligence of other drivers.
If you were hurt in a North Carolina motorcycle accident, it’s vital to seek legal representation as soon as possible. To reach the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys of Ward Black Law for a free consultation, call us, text us, or contact us online today.