Every year, motorcyclists lose their lives in preventable traffic accidents in Texas. Negligent and careless motor vehicle drivers cause many of these accidents by infringing upon motorcyclists’ rights to the road. In other cases, a motorcyclist may break a law and increase his or her odds of causing an accident and suffering an injury. Learning Texas’ motorcycle laws can help you prevent accidents as a motorcyclist or a driver. It could also help you avoid a traffic ticket.

Helmet Use in Texas

All motorcyclists under the age of 21 must wear an approved motorcycle helmet while operating or riding as a passenger. An approved helmet is one that has passed safety guidelines and durability tests under the Department of Transportation (DOT). Look for a helmet with the DOT sticker to verify that it is safe and effective. Do not purchase a used helmet, as it could have been in an accident that has compromised its ability to protect your skull or face.

Motorcycle helmets can reduce the risk of suffering a fatal injury in an accident by 37%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, if every motorcyclist involved in an accident would have been wearing a helmet, 802 more would have survived. Despite Texas law not requiring motorcycle helmets for all riders, it is wise to wear one for safety reasons. Legally, however, riders over 21 may ride without a helmet, as long as they have taken a safety course or have an appropriate health insurance plan.

Is Lane-Splitting Legal in Texas?

No, lane-splitting is not legal in Texas. Lane-splitting refers to riding a motorcycle in between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. The only state that allows this practice currently is California. If you try to ride between two lanes of traffic in Texas, you could face a traffic citation and a fine. If you cause an accident while illegally lane-splitting, you could be responsible for damages. Although the safety of lane-splitting is up for debate, Texas lawmakers are decidedly against it as of October 2019.

Basic Motorcycle Dos and Don’ts

In Texas, a motorcyclist has all the same rights to the road as a typical motorist. He or she may take a full lane, ride on highways and expect the respect of other drivers. Motorcyclists must also obey all the same roadway rules. This includes speed limits, stop signs, red lights and rights-of-way. Other drivers should maintain safe distances from motorcycles and yield them the right-of-way when applicable. All roadway users should do what they can to prevent motor vehicle accidents. Before taking a motorcycle out on the road in Texas, make sure it has all the necessary equipment.

  • At least one mirror
  • Taillights and brake lights
  • Rear red reflector
  • License plate light
  • Horn
  • Exhaust system
  • Brake system
  • Vehicle identification number

You should always inspect your motorcycle before you ride, checking things such as tire pressure and fluids. Motorcyclists must also have special licenses in Texas. They need to take the correct driver’s courses – including the Basic Motorcycle Operator Training Course – and pass written and driving tests to obtain a Class M driver’s license. A driver who already has a license may bypass the testing requirements with an MSB-8 completion certificate or by taking an approved motorcycle course. A motorcyclist must be at least 16. Finally, it is against the law to have a passenger five years old or younger on a motorcycle in Texas.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Texas

In 2018, 418 motorcyclists in Texas died in traffic accidents. Almost 50% of these deceased motorcyclists were not wearing helmets. Hundreds of others suffered serious injuries that may change their lives. Obeying Texas’ motorcycle laws is a great way to reduce the risk of accidents. As a motorcyclist, always follow the rule and operate your bike prudently. Do not speed, weave between traffic or operate your motorcycle recklessly. As a motor vehicle driver, check twice for motorcyclists and respect their rights to the road. The responsibility to prevent crashes rests on all roadway users.