Nine Important Boston Motorcycle Laws

June 29, 2021
Nine Important Boston Motorcycle Laws Riding your motorcycle through the streets of Boston and the surrounding area can feel fantastic: the wind blowing around you, the freedom of the open road, and, of course, a maneuverable vehicle that allows you to easily slip through traffic no matter where you need to go. No matter where you ride in Massachusetts, however, you need to abide by the laws established to protect both you and other drivers around you.

1. Motorcycle Riders in Boston Must Wear Helmets at All Times.

According to Massachusetts law, all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet at all times. That includes both the motorcycle's driver and any motorcycle passengers. Helmet use can substantially reduce the risk of head injury, including the risk of traumatic brain injury, in a motorcycle accident. Motorcycle accident victims who choose not to wear helmets may quickly suffer severe TBI, which can have long-lasting consequences in their lives. Head injuries can interfere with memory, focus and concentration, and even emotional regulation—substantially decreasing the overall quality of life for many victims. Motorcycle riders must use a DOT-approved helmet to safely operate their motorcycles in Boston.

2. Riders in Massachusetts Must Wear Eye Protection.

Riding a motorcycle with no eye protection can endanger you. The wind rushing past your face can make your eyes tear, which may make it very difficult for you to see everything going on around you on the road or even cause you to close your eyes completely. Some drivers also have trouble with items blowing into their eyes, which may disturb the driver's vision and make the motorcycle difficult to control. To reduce the risk of injury because of an obstacle that interferes with the driver's vision, Massachusetts law requires motorcycle riders to wear eye protection. They may wear eyeglasses, goggles, or a protective face shield, either on or off the helmet, to protect their eyes. However, if the motorcycle comes equipped with a protective windscreen, they can avoid that requirement. The windscreen serves as vital eye protection that can prevent motorcycle riders from ending up with debris in their eyes and may reduce tearing from the wind, thereby increasing overall visibility as they navigate the roads.

3. Motorcycle Riders in Boston Must Carry a Massachusetts Motorcycle License.

In Massachusetts, riders must have a specific motorcycle license, not just a regular driver's license. To secure that license, riders will need to put in the necessary time to learn how to ride a motorcycle properly and show that they have acquired those skills. Massachusetts requires anyone seeking a motorcycle license to start by applying for a Class M permit. Massachusetts motorcycle riders, before procuring a Class M license, must pass the Class D knowledge test. Motorcycle riders need to follow some of the same laws as regular drivers, which means they must have a strong understanding of regular driving laws and motorcycle-specific laws. During the permit period, Boston motorcycle riders can only operate their motorcycles during daylight hours and cannot carry passengers.

4. Minor Drivers May Need to Follow Specific Requirements to Obtain a Motorcycle License.

Before upgrading from a permit to a full license, minors must carry their permit and maintain a clean driving record for at least six consecutive months before they take the road test. They must also meet other critical requirements once they acquire their motorcycle license. First, they must restrict the hours they can drive, since minors under 18 cannot operate a motor vehicle between 12:30 am and 5:30 am. Furthermore, motorcycle riders under 18 must complete both a Massachusetts Rider Education Program basic rider course and normal drivers' education course. The Massachusetts Rider Education Program basic rider course helps prepare minor motorcycle riders for many of the challenges they face out on the road. It serves as a platform to help improve motorcycle safety across the state, creating riders who have a better feel for the motorcycle and who know what they might face. As a result, those riders feel more confident and have the skills to observe road conditions, deal with potential hazards, and decrease the odds of an accident that causes substantial injuries. To secure a motorcycle license, Massachusetts drivers must have reached at least age 16. Boston riders also need to follow the same procedures as a driver obtaining their driver's license for the first time. Minor motorcycle riders must also have a parent's permission to secure a motorcycle license.

5. Boston Motorcycle Riders May Need to Adhere to Specific Restrictions When Choosing their Motorcycles.

Boston riders must adhere to two key Massachusetts laws when choosing their motorcycles. First, they must ensure that the motorcycle's handlebars do not rise above the operator's shoulders when the driver sits correctly on the motorcycle. Too-tall handlebars can make it very difficult for the driver to safely handle the motorcycle and may increase the risk of losing control. Next, Massachusetts law establishes that motorcycles may not exceed a noise limit of 82 decibels when the motorcycle reaches 45 miles per hour. These noise standards help ensure that Boston riders will not cause unnecessary noise pollution when traveling through neighborhoods.

6. Motorcycles Operated in Boston Must Adhere to Minimum Safety Standards.

To operate a motorcycle in Boston, the motorcycle must meet the minimum safety standards set out by the Massachusetts government. The motorcycle must have:
  • Proper lighting, including working headlights and tail lights. These lights must offer enough light to make the motorcycle fully visible.
  • Lighting on the license plate that illuminates it, ensuring that other drivers or the police can see the plate if needed.
  • Working brakes, including brakes that the driver can utilize easily and effectively.
  • A secure seat that will help keep the rider in place, rather than slipping to the side in a potential accident.
  • Rearview mirrors that provide the rider with additional visibility, reducing the risk that the rider will fail to keep up with traffic around them and cause or contribute to an accident.
If the motorcycle does not meet these minimum safety standards, the rider may not legally operate it.

7. Motorcycle Riders Cannot Lane Split in Boston.

Lane splitting is often the subject of debate between lawmakers and motorcycle riders across the United States. Many bikers feel that lane splitting, which involves traveling between two lanes of traffic instead of occupying a complete lane, offers them a faster way to reach their destinations in tight traffic. With Boston's often heavy traffic and frequent standstill traffic challenges, lane splitting could allow motorcycles to slip through that traffic and riders to get to their destinations—and off of the already-congested roads—faster than if they waited in traffic with everyone else. Massachusetts law, however, specifically prohibits lane splitting—and with good reason. When motorcycle riders attempt to split lanes, they travel in a space where other drivers might not expect traffic. As a result, those drivers might not take the time to look out for them, especially if the motorcycle sits in the driver's blind spot. If traffic starts moving again, the driver may not see the motorcycle and might end up causing an accident. Lane splitting laws also ensure that motorcycles have the right to use the entire lane they occupy. Sometimes, the drivers of passenger vehicles will attempt to split lanes or will try to use a lane filled by a motorcycle to pass or get around someone else. Distracted drivers may also drift into the motorcycle's lane, assuming they have more room to maneuver because the motorcycle does not need as much space. The motorcycle rider may end up suffering serious injuries because they fail to account for the presence of that vehicle in their lane, especially if it occurs without warning. Anti-lane-splitting laws help protect motorcycle riders and the drivers of passenger vehicles alike.

8. To Secure a Motorcycle License, Boston Riders Must Not Have Had their Licenses Revoked for Any Other Reason.

Massachusetts law states that motorcycle riders can only acquire a license if they can legally hold a driver's license in Massachusetts. If the state has revoked a driver's license for any reason, including drinking and driving or ignoring the rules of the road, the driver cannot hold a motorcycle license.

9. Boston Motorcycle Riders Must Follow the Same Rules of the Road as the Drivers of Passenger Vehicles.

When riding a motorcycle, Boston riders must adhere to traffic laws just like any other driver. Operating a motorcycle, rather than a passenger vehicle, does not serve as an acceptable excuse for ignoring the rules of the road.

Speeding

Just like the drivers of passenger vehicles, motorcycle riders must adhere to posted speed limits. Often, Boston riders may feel as though they can increase their speed, especially on winding mountain roads or around curvy areas. Since the motorcycle takes up less room on the road, it may prove more maneuverable. However, traveling at excess speeds can raise accident risk for motorcycle riders just as much as it does for the drivers of passenger vehicles. Speeding can prove even more dangerous for motorcycle riders in an accident, since they have so little protection from the road and may, as a result, sustain more severe injuries in an accident.

Traffic Signals

Motorcycle riders must also adhere to traffic signals, including yield signs, stop signs, and stoplights. Often, bringing a motorcycle to a full stop may pose some difficulty. While motorcycles can stop faster, once the driver stops, they need to balance the motorcycle. A heavy touring bike can become very difficult to hold up, especially at the end of a long ride. Bikers may try to ease through red lights and stop signs to avoid coming to a complete stop. However, failure to come to a complete stop can make it more difficult to tell what the motorcycle will do and may cause the driver to ignore the right of way, which could cause a serious accident.

Utilizing Signals on the Bike

In addition to adhering to traffic signals, motorcycle riders must also use their signals to indicate planned behaviors: using turn signals before changing lanes or making a turn, for example. Sometimes, riders may forget to signal their intent, especially if they need to take a sharp turn. Failure to indicate their plans, however, can cause other drivers to struggle to predict the motorcycle rider's behavior. Since it can also be more difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed, failure to utilize signals may also increase the risk that another driver will crash into them, resulting in an accident with serious injuries. As a motorcycle rider, you must know, understand, and follow all motorcycle laws throughout Massachusetts and any other state you travel through as you journey the country on your motorcycle. By following those laws, you can decrease your accident risk and help keep you and others who share the road with you safer. Did you suffer serious injuries in a Boston motorcycle accident? If another party's negligent actions led to your accident, you may deserve compensation for your injuries. Contact an experienced Boston motorcycle accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to schedule a free consultation about your accident, who may have caused or contributed to it, and the compensation you may deserve for your injuries.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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