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Motorcycle Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina Motorcycle Laws

All motorists, including motorcyclists, must know the laws that apply to them at all times. In addition to the regular rules of the road in North Carolina – including insurance requirements – bikers have additional laws that pertain only to them. The most important of these are helmet laws and the licensing requirements for riding a motorcycle.

Understanding these laws is important so that you can keep yourself and everyone else around you safe and out of legal trouble.

NC Motorcycle Helmet and Safety Laws

North Carolina is a universal helmet law state. This means that all riders and passengers regardless of age must wear a helmet at all times while on a motorcycle. The law also states all moped riders and passengers must wear a helmet at all times.

All helmets must:

  • Comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218
  • Have a thick inner liner that is approximately one-inch thick
  • Have a “DOT” sticker permanently affixed to the back of the helmet
  • Include manufacturer information including the name, model, size, date, type of shell, and liner construction inside the helmet

Riders must also secure the chin strap on their helmets and ensure it remains secures at all times.

Other safety laws for bikers relate to the motorcycle they’re riding. North Carolina law states that in order for a bike to be considered street legal, it must have:

  • A license plate that is visible from 50 feet away at night
  • A horn that can be heard from approximately 200 feet away
  • A rear-view mirror
  • An exhaust system
  • At least one headlight that runs at all times, regardless of the time of day, and that provides visibility up to at least 200 feet in front of the bike
  • A speedometer
  • At least one tail light that is visible from approximately 500 feet away
  • At least one brake light that is visible from at least 100 feet away
  • Footpegs or rests for passengers

This safety equipment is some of the only protection a motorcyclist has. It’s important all motorcycles have these installed so you can see other motorists, and so they can see you.

NC Motorcycle License Requirements

In order to operate a motorcycle in North Carolina, an individual must have either a motorcycle learner’s permit or a motorcycle endorsement on their regular driver’s license. People riding mopeds do not require this specific license.

People over the age of 18 who want to apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit can do so only if they already have a regular driver’s license. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 can apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit if they have a full provisional license under North Carolina’s graduated licensing system. Those in this younger age group must obtain signed parental consent and must attend a motorcycle safety course.

People who meet the eligibility requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license must pay a $20 fee and pass a vision test, road sign test, and motorcycle knowledge test. Once these tests are passed, a motorcycle learner’s permit is issued and is valid for 12 months. Permits can be renewed for six months after they expire.

It’s important that all bikers understand that, no matter their age, people riding on a learner’s permit cannot carry passengers.

Insurance Requirements for Motorcyclists in NC

All motorists in North Carolina are required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage in case of an accident. This applies to motorcycles as well.

The insurance requirements for motorcycles are the same as for passenger cars. Bikers must carry liability coverage with the following minimum limits at all times:

  • $30,000 in bodily injury per person
  • $60,000 in bodily injury per incident
  • $25,000 in property damage per incident

While these are the minimum amounts motorcyclists must carry, it is often advised that motorists purchase more than the minimum amounts. Many drivers and bikers don’t do this in order to save money on their insurance premiums. However, when insurance doesn’t cover the cost of injuries, accident victims often wish they had purchased more.

Is Lane Splitting Legal in NC?

Some motorcyclists love lane splitting. This is when a motorcyclist rides their bike between two lanes of traffic, usually when that traffic has slowed significantly or stopped completely. Bikers love it because it helps them out of congested traffic situations and they can get where they’re going faster. Other motorists though, often see it as a dangerous act that can cause an accident.

North Carolina doesn’t have any laws specifically about lane splitting, so it’s not explicitly illegal. While lane splitting in slow traffic is unlikely to cause an accident, when cars are traveling at higher speeds, bikers should avoid lane splitting and remain fully in one lane.

It is important to note that while lane splitting is not technically illegal, the law is very clear about the sides of a car bikers pass. The law expressly states that motorcycles cannot pass vehicles on the right-hand side, except in very limited circumstances.

North Carolina law also allows motorcycles to share a lane and ride two abreast. Like lane splitting, while this practice is perfectly safe in slow-moving traffic, bikers should only ride in single-file when traveling at higher speeds. North Carolina law makes it illegal for a car to share a lane with a motorcycle. Drivers of cars must give motorcyclists the full lane.

Involved in a Crash? Call Our Experienced Asheville Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Bikers are typically very cautious when they head out onto the roads of western North Carolina, but motorcycle accidents still happen. When they do and they were the fault of someone else who wasn’t following the laws or was otherwise acting negligently, accident victims need to speak to a motorcycle accident lawyer in Asheville.

If you’ve been hurt on your motorcycle, you’re likely suffering from serious injuries and may not know how you’re going to pay for your medical bills. At The Elmore and Smith Law Firm, PC, we want to help.

We know you may be eligible for compensation that can help with the cost of your injuries, and we want to help you pursue it. Now is the time for you to focus on your recovery. Let us do the rest.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist with your case during a free consultation.