Anyone who's new to riding a motorcycle will have plenty of questions about their rights on the road. But even experienced motorcycle drivers may be surprised to learn some of the rights they have. Motorcycle drivers must be more careful than many other drivers because of the safety concerns of motorcycling. However, because of the unique characteristics of their vehicles, motorcycle drivers also have rights unique to them and some they share with other drivers. While these rights and responsibilities can vary from state to state, there is a wide overlap across the United States in how motorcycle drivers are expected to act and how other drivers are required to treat them.
The Right to a Lane
Motorcycle drivers can be passed by other drivers but have the legal right to their lane like any other vehicle. Sharing the lane with a motorcycle is absolutely illegal and dangerous to the motorcycle driver. Motorcycle drivers have the right to a lane the same way a car or truck driver does.
Lane-splitting is prohibited in most locales, whether with motorcycles or other types of vehicles. These laws exist for the safety of all drivers, ensuring everyone has adequate space to maneuver and stop. Motorcycle drivers always have the right to their own lane and safe driving space. Motorcycles are much more vulnerable to being run off the road or losing control than other vehicles.
The Right to Equal Treatment
Motorcycle drivers have the right to be treated like any other vehicle drivers while on the road. This means they enjoy the same rights and responsibilities of other drivers. It also means that they can't be singled out by law enforcement simply because they're riding a motorcycle.
Unfortunately, it hasn't always been the case that motorcycle drivers were treated equally by law enforcement or fellow drivers. This has thankfully become less of a problem with increased motorcycle advocacy.
Access to Public Lands
Motorcycle drivers have the same rights as anyone else when it comes to using public lands for recreation. Except for areas where vehicles, in general, are prohibited (such as in a wildlife preserve or national park), motorcycle drivers are free to visit and enjoy the use of public lands like any other drivers. This includes off-roading, sport motorcycling, and all-terrain vehicles.
In states where there is no required helmet law for motorcycle drivers or their passengers, individual drivers have the right to choose whether they wear one or not. While it is certainly recommended from a safety standpoint that drivers use helmets, even if only for their passengers, they retain the prerogative to decide for themselves.
Just as motorcycle drivers are expected to observe the rules of the road and drive safely, they also have the right to this same responsibility on the part of other drivers. This is why it's so important for drivers of all vehicles to be educated on safely sharing the road with motorcycles. Continual reminders from motorcycle advocacy groups and government also help car and truck drivers to be mindful of motorcycle drivers.
Though there are some unique needs of motorcycle drivers on the road, for the most part, their rights are fairly comparable to drivers of any other vehicle. This is a fact that has been and continues to be emphasized by motorcycle advocates. While motorcycle drivers may be driving a different kind of vehicle, that doesn't make them any less entitled to the treatment accorded to other drivers. It's important that all drivers review the rules of the road and remain considerate of others to improve road safety.