For some, riding a motorcycle is just an economical means of transportation. For others, it’s simply a recreational activity. But for many, it’s a passion and a way of life. As some avid riders like to say. “four wheels move the body…two wheels move the soul.” Regardless of the reason people ride, knowing how the law treats motorcycle riding is important. Not only does this information decrease your likelihood of getting a ticket, but it also may save your life.
This is a brief overview of some of the Minnesota laws regarding the insurance, safety, and operating requirements that affect motorcyclists.
MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
Because of the exposure to the rider, and the lack of safety mechanisms (seat belts, air bags, etc.), injury is much more likely on a motorcycle compared to an automobile. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured. Due to the higher risk associated with motorcycling, adequately protecting yourself and your passengers in case of an accident is extremely important.
In Minnesota, the only insurance required to be carried on a motorcycle is liability insurance. Liability insurance only covers injury or property damage caused by the fault of the motorcycle driver to other persons or property. Coverages that actually protect the motorcycle driver (i.e., no-fault insurance, underinsured motorist insurance, and uninsured motorist coverage) are either not required or not available. Consequently, if a motorcyclist only carries the required liability insurance coverage, and they are in an accident caused by a driver that is uninsured, or who does not have adequate liability insurance coverage, they will have no other source of recovery for their injuries.
All motorcyclists should be sure to talk to their insurance agent to make sure they have the proper coverage to protect themselves in the event of an accident.
Motorcycle drivers and passengers under the age of 18, as well as those operating the motorcycle on a permit, are required to wear a helmet. Beyond that, there are no helmet requirements in Minnesota. However, all riders are required to wear protective eyewear, such as glasses, goggles, or a face shield on a helmet. Just using a windshield is not sufficient.
While not required, wearing a helmet can and will drastically decrease the risk of death or serious injury to a motorcyclist involved in a crash. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are about 37% effective in preventing fatalities and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. All motorcyclists and passengers should wear a helmet to decrease the risk of injury or death. Furthermore, modern design of helmets has evolved to the point where they are both protective and stylish.
Knowing the law with regard to operation of a motorcycle is also a crucial aspect of motorcycle safety. Minnesota Statute 169.974, subd. 5 covers “driving rules” for motorcycles. These driving rules include, but are not limited to:
• An operator of a motorcycle shall ride only upon a permanent and regular seat which is attached to the vehicle for that purpose. No other person shall ride on a motorcycle; except that passengers may ride upon a permanent and regular operator’s seat if designed for two persons, or upon additional seats attached to the vehicle to the rear of the operator’s seat, or in a sidecar attached to the vehicle; provided, however, that the operator of a motorcycle shall not carry passengers in a number in excess of the designed capacity of the motorcycle or sidecar attached to it. No passenger shall be carried in a position that will interfere with the safe operation of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.
• No person shall ride upon a motorcycle as a passenger unless, when sitting astride the seat, the person can reach the footrests with both feet.
• No person, except passengers of sidecars or drivers and passengers of three-wheeled motorcycles, shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle except while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.
• No person shall operate a motorcycle while carrying animals, packages, bundles, or other cargo which prevent the person from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
• No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of moving or stationary vehicles headed in the same direction, nor shall any person drive a motorcycle abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane, except that motorcycles may, with the consent of both drivers, be operated not more than two abreast in a single traffic lane.
• Motor vehicles including motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and no motor vehicle may be driven or operated in a manner so as to deprive a motorcycle of the full use of a traffic lane.
• No person shall operate a motorcycle on a street or highway unless the headlight or headlights are lighted at all times the motorcycle is so operated.
Even the most experienced motorcyclists can be injured in an accident. If you wear a helmet and follow all the safety requirements and laws, a crash can still occur if there is simply a split second lack of focus by the operator, or the driver of another vehicle. In addition, riding at night increases the chances of encountering wildlife, road conditions, or other situations, which increase the potential risk of injury or death. Finally, although drinking alcohol may appear to be part of the culture of certain motorcycle drivers, it goes without saying that the risk significantly increases with the use of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call one of the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Nelson Personal Injury today for a free consultation.