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Washington State Motorcycle Laws

Motorcycle laws vary from state to state. Riders need to know these Washington State Motorcycle Laws to ride safely, legally, & responsibly in WA. Motorcycle riding in Washington is not for everybody. Literally.

Only licensed riders complying with state motorcycle laws can legally operate a motorcycle in Washington.

Motorcycle Riders: Know Your Washington State Motorcycle Laws

Following Washington motorcycle laws is about more than just getting a license. It’s about being safe and responsible in every aspect of motorcycle operation. In addition to keeping riders in good legal standing, knowing and following motorcycle laws reduces, and even eliminates, motorcycle accidents.

Proper compliance and knowledge will also reduce, or remove, motorcyclists’ and automobilists’ liability for accidents. Following Washington state motorcycle laws and practicing proper safety measures protects all motorists.

Quick Summary of Washington State Motorcycle Laws;

  • Riders must possess Class C, M1, or M2 license, as applicable, or a valid learner’s permit
  • Riders must wear a DOT-approved helmet in good repair & eye protection
  • Motorcycles must have a passenger seat and footrests to carry passengers
  • Riders under the age of 18 must pass a motorcycle education course
  • Passengers must not be under the age of 5
  • Headlight & taillight must remain on when riding
  • Maximum handlebar height is 30” above the seat
  • Motorcycles must have a left and right mirror
  • Motorcycles must have working turn signals

It is important to note that state law doesn’t require protective clothing, such as jackets or gloves. However, officials highly recommend that riders always use the most safety equipment possible to protect themselves. Riders operating motorcycles with windshields do not require eye protection.

Do you need a motorcycle license in Washington?

Washington law states that motorcycle riders must have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. Beginning in 2020, drivers must pass a basic knowledge and skills exam to receive a learner’s permit.

Motorcyclists must pass an advanced knowledge and skills exam in order to obtain a motorcycle endorsement.

Motorcycles with steering wheels or partially or fully enclosed seating areas with safety belts do not require an endorsement.

Similarly, motorcycles with engines under 49ccs are exempt. Scooters 49ccs and under simply require a valid Washington state driver’s license.

What is the penalty for riding a motorcycle without an endorsement in Washington?

The current minimum fine for riding a motorcycle in Washington without an endorsement is $386. Additionally, authorities can impound a motorcycle if it is operated on roadways without the required endorsement.

This helpful video shows the skills needed to obtain a Washington State motorcycle endorsement.

Washington Motorcycle Endorsement Types; Two-Wheeled and Three-Wheeled Motorcycle Endorsements

There are two types of motorcycle endorsements in Washington, a two-wheeled motorcycle endorsement and a three-wheeled motorcycle endorsement. Operating a three-wheeled motorcycle or a motorcycle with a sidecar in Washington requires a specific endorsement.

Washington requires separate training, testing, and endorsements for two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorcycles because of differences in handling.

Three-wheeled motorcycle riders must pass both a written and driving test to add the endorsement to their driver’s license. This special certification applies to motorcycles equipped sidecars, trikes, and reverse trikes.

A two-wheeled motorcycle endorsement does not apply to these types of motorcycles.

Conveniently, some DMVs provide three-wheeled motorcycles for test takers. This is helpful for riders that want a three-wheel motorcycle certification but don’t currently own such a vehicle.

Do motorcyclists need to carry insurance in Washington?

Washington law states that all drivers, including motorcyclists, must carry insurance. Motorcycle insurance needs to meet the established minimum coverage limits. Individuals must carry $10,000 in property damage per accident.

In addition, bodily injury liability of $25,000 per person, $50,000 for two or more people, is necessary.

Is lane splitting legal in Washington?

Lane splitting is against the law in Washington State. It is illegal for motorcyclists to ride between lanes of cars in slowed or stopped traffic. Interestingly, the only U.S. state to allow lane splitting is California.

The practice is also common in Europe and Asia. Out-of-state riders should familiarize themselves with the laws of each state they ride in because of differences like this one.

What are the drug & alcohol-related Washington state motorcycle laws?

It is illegal to operate a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol or street drugs. In addition, the Washington DMV also prohibits passengers from riding after using these substances.

Alcohol and street drugs can impair the ability to physically balance the motorcycle. Impairment can lead to unstable riding conditions for both the passenger and the operator.

First-Time Riders: Learn the Washington State Motorcycle Laws

Beginning and first-time motorcycle riders are more likely to crash. According to state statistics, more than half of all motorcycle crashes involve riders with less than six months experience.

Inexperienced riders are also less likely to know the Washington state motorcycle laws. In addition to learning state laws, the following important tips will help new riders become safe motorcyclists.

Additional Safety Tips for Riding a Motorcycle: What Officials Say

The State Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that all riders become familiar with their bike and the terrain when possible. Always stay aware of surroundings and employ defensive driving techniques to help avoid a motorcycle accident.

When riding with a group of bikers, you should employ a staggered position on the road for maximum safety. Never ride side by side with another motorcycle.

In addition, you should leave adequate clearance between bikes to allow for proper reaction time should a problem occur. more information about safe riding and Washington state motorcycle laws, please refer to the Washington state motorcycle guidelines handbook. You can download a copy of this handbook or read it online by visiting

Washington Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Ready to Help!

The Bernard Law Group has years of experience in motorcycle crash cases. To best represent our clients, we are experts on Washington state motorcycle laws. First, our skilled team of motorcycle accident lawyers investigates the facts and assesses your claim.

After that, we establish which parties and insurance companies should be held responsible based on state laws. Finally, we organize all the necessary details to compose and present your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay!

The Proof Is In Our Case Results

Over $500 Million recovered for our past clients. Let us help YOU! Call 24/7 for your FREE injury consultation. 206-298-9900

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