More than 50 people are fatally injured in Massachusetts motorcycle accidents every year. In a recent five-year period, 246 motorcyclists and 11 passengers were killed on Massachusetts roads. Most collisions involved larger passenger vehicles.

In the U.S., only 3 percent of all registered vehicles are motorcycles. Even so, in one recent year, motorcyclists accounted for 16 percent of vehicle accident fatalities in Massachusetts. Many factors contribute to this discrepancy, such as the smaller size and relative lack of protection offered by motorcycles as compared to passenger cars.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has motorcycle laws that are designed to allow motorcyclists and other drivers to safely share the road. Read on to learn more about the laws that help reduce risk for all drivers on Massachusetts roads.

Massachusetts Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Of all the motorcyclists fatally injured in U.S. traffic accidents, 60 percent were found to have crashed without a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle helmets are effective 67 percent of the time in preventing head and brain injuries. Based on this research, motorcyclists in Massachusetts are subject to mandatory helmet requirements.

Massachusetts law states anyone riding a motorcycle as an operator or a passenger must wear protective headgear. Helmets must meet approved minimum safety guidelines, such as standards for impact absorption and reflective quality.

Also, any driver whose motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield or other protective screen must wear eyeglasses, goggles or a face shield while on the road.

Massachusetts Motorcycle Requirements: Licenses

To legally operate a motorcycle in Massachusetts, residents must first obtain a motorcycle, or “Class M,” learner’s permit. To apply for a Class M permit, applicants must:

  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Have the consent of a parent or guardian, if under 18 years of age
  • Be a current resident of Massachusetts
  • Meet minimum Class M license medical standards
  • Pass a 25-question learner’s permit exam

To obtain a valid Massachusetts motorcycle license, permit holders under 18 must satisfy all junior operator requirements and complete the Motorcycle Rider Education Program (MREP). Permit holders older than 18 must simply pass a Class M road test to obtain a motorcycle license.

Requirements for a Class M road test include:

  • A valid Class M learner’s permit
  • A Class M road test application
  • A self-provided and safe motorcycle
  • Proof of valid motorcycle registration
  • Proof of valid motorcycle inspection
  • Proof of motorcycle insurance coverage

Unlike Class D road tests, which allow you to legally operate a passenger vehicle, Class M road tests do not require applicants to work with a sponsor. If residents fail their Class M road tests twice in a row, they are required to successfully complete the MREP, regardless of age.

Massachusetts Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

All Massachusetts drivers, including motorcyclists, must carry these minimum amounts of insurance coverage:

  • $20,000 per person in personal injury coverage, for injuries you cause others
  • $40,000 total per accident in personal injury coverage, for others’ injuries
  • $5,000 per accident in property damage coverage, for damage you cause others
  • $8,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, for your own injuries
  • $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident in uninsured motorist coverage

Massachusetts motorcycle registrations are not approved until the minimum amounts of insurance coverage are purchased.

Massachusetts Motorcycle Inspection Requirements

Massachusetts requires annual inspections for all registered vehicles, including motorcycles. New vehicles must be inspected within seven days of registration, according to the guidelines set out in the Massachusetts Vehicle Check program. Vehicles are inspected under that program for emissions and safety standards. Most vehicle inspections cost $35. The price for motorcycle inspections is $15.

Motorcycle inspections must be completed at designated and licensed Class M inspection stations. Motorcycles that pass their inspections receive inspection stickers that are valid for one year from the date of the inspection. Motorcycles that fail their inspections receive no sticker. Any motorcycles that contain onboard diagnostic systems older than 15 years must also pass yearly emissions tests.

Massachusetts passenger vehicle owners and motorcyclists who drive without valid inspections stickers may be subject to traffic violations, which can result in fines and higher insurance premiums.

Massachusetts Lane Splitting Law

Since motorcycles are much smaller than standard cars, motorcyclists have the ability to drive between cars in traffic lanes heading in the same direction. This maneuver is called “lane splitting.”

Lane splitting may be a useful way to reduce road congestion, but it can significantly increase the risk of side-impact crashes. One reason: a larger vehicle operator who is changing lanes may not see a motorcyclist who is lane splitting.

Currently, California is the only state in the U.S. with laws that specifically allow motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting.

Many state laws do not mention lane splitting at all. However, Massachusetts explicitly outlaws the practice. Under Massachusetts law, all vehicle drivers must remain entirely within a single lane while driving. Drivers must not pass another vehicle within that same lane unless it is a motorcycle passing another motorcycle. Motorcyclists are permitted by law to share lanes while riding, but they may only ride two abreast and side-by-side.

Contact The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan

If you have been involved in a Massachusetts motorcycle accident, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan are here to help. During a free initial consultation, we can review the details of your motorcycle accident. We can also help you understand your legal options and your potential right to compensation.

Call our experienced Massachusetts motorcycle accident attorneys today to schedule a free initial review of your case.