red helmet and motorcycle

All riders in Alabama are required to be familiar with the state’s motorcycle laws, which exist to keep the biker and others on the road safe. Here, we’ve provided information about some of the basic safety laws that all motorcycle riders and passengers must follow in our state.

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident caused by a negligent driver in Alabama, don’t hesitate to talk to a knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney at Stokes Stemle, LLC for a free consultation. We’re here to help.

Basic Safety Laws

Alabama’s Motorcycle Manual provides detailed information about safety laws in Alabama.

All motorcyclists are required to follow a few basic rules, including:

  • Abiding by the speed limit
  • Wearing an approved helmet
  • Refraining from lane-sharing (though lane sharing with other motorcycles is acceptable)
  • Stopping at all stop signs and traffic lights
  • Yielding the right of way to other motorists and pedestrians

Motorcyclists should also be aware that some locales have restrictions on exhaust decibels, or how loud a motorcycle can be. Make sure that you review your local ordinances to determine whether or not your locale enforces a limit on exhaust decibels.

Alabama Motorcycle Helmet and Footwear Laws

All Alabama motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet, no matter their age. This rule applies to all riders and passengers. The helmet should have a hard-shelled exterior and a chin strap that fits appropriately. Helmets can save lives in the event of a collision. It is also recommended to wear a face shield to protect your face from road hazards and debris.

All motorcyclists are also required to wear shoes while riding.

Motorcycle Passenger Laws

The Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) permits passengers on motorcycles as long as passengers have their own seat and dedicated footrests. Passengers are not permitted to ride on the same seat or use the same footrests as the driver. Only one passenger can ride at a time. Just like the driver, the passenger must wear a solid helmet.

Lane Sharing and Lane Splitting Laws

All motorcycles shall have full use of traffic lanes and no other motorist should operate their vehicle in a way that impedes this right.

Motorcyclists are permitted to share a lane with one other motorcycle driving side-by-side, but only two motorcycles maximum may do this.

However, motorcyclists are not permitted to “split” lanes with vehicles. Lane splitting occurs when motorcyclists travel on the lane markers between two vehicles, but this driving behavior is prohibited in Alabama.

Lane splitting is often considered unsafe because vehicles may not notice motorcycles traveling in their blind spots and might attempt to change lanes when a motorcycle is in the way.

Motorcycle Accessory and Equipment Requirements

Alabama requires motorcyclists to have certain accessories and equipment when riding, including:

  • Seat and footrest for passengers, if you plan to carry passengers
  • Daytime headlights
  • Working taillight and brake light
  • Functioning turn signals
  • Side mirrors
  • A working horn
  • Handlebars that are no higher than 15 inches above the sear

You may also want to carry additional accessories for safety reasons, such as:

  • Turn signals
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves or protective clothing
  • Saddlebags

While these accessories are not mandated by Alabama motorcycle laws, they can help guard against accidents or minimize the damage if you are in one. Additionally, Alabama motorcycle laws restrict you from carrying anything in your hands while operating your motor vehicle. Saddlebags can help you carry necessary items while freeing up your hands to operate your motorcycle.

Alabama Motorcycle License and Age Requirements

Up until 2015, Alabama was one of the very few states that did not require motorcyclists to possess a special license to operate a motorcycle. Post-2015, all motorcyclists are required to have a special “M” endorsement on their license in order to legally operate a motorcycle. To get this special endorsement, motorcyclists must either pass a knowledge test or complete a motorcycle safety course that the DPS administers.

Additionally, individuals aged 14 and above are eligible to obtain a restricted license that permits them to operate a two-wheeled motor vehicle such as a moped.

All motorcyclists in the state of Alabama are required to carry their license on their person when riding, according to the Alabama law on motorcycle licenses.

Duty to Avoid Crash

All motorists have a duty to avoid getting in a crash when possible. Motorcyclists can help decrease the number of crashes by becoming experts in crash avoidance maneuvers. The DPS says that most crashes involve riders who underbrake the front tire and overbrake the rear or do not separate braking from swerving.

Every motorcycle accident is unique, but there are a few main causes of most motorcycle accidents in Alabama. Understanding these threats can help you anticipate them and avoid them.

The most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:

  • Distracted driving – Distracted driving has become the most common cause of traffic-related accidents in the country, and Alabama is no exception to the rule. Examples of distracted driving include:
    • Texting while driving
    • Talking on the phone
    • Talking to other passengers
    • Using a GPS while driving
    • Adjusting the radio
    • Eating
    • Drinking
    • Daydreaming
  • Failure of motorists to check blind spots – Often, drivers are so focused on other vehicles that they don’t keep an eye out for motorcycles in their blind spots. This can lead to unsafe lane changes, where drivers veer into lanes already occupied by motorcyclists and end up causing side collisions.
  • Reckless driving – Some drivers fail to obey applicable traffic laws, or even ignore them intentionally. Speeding, tailgating, and other reckless driving practices present a great danger to motorcyclists and can lead to fatal injuries.
  • Drunk driving – Motorists who drive while intoxicated are incredibly dangerous to motorcyclists. Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs reduces a driver’s ability to concentrate on driving and slows down their reaction time. Drunk drivers may not even notice motorcyclists. Driving while intoxicated is a serious crime with severe penalties.

Motorcycle Auto Insurance

All motor vehicle operators, including motorcyclists, are required to carry the state’s minimum liability coverage to cover damages they cause to other people or property. The state minimum liability limits are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people
  • $25,000 for property damage

Because motorcycle accidents can lead to far more severe injuries than the average car accident, you are encouraged to carry more than the state minimum coverage. Unlike drivers, motorcyclists do not have any form of safety apparatus to protect them in the event of a collision. When drivers crash into motorcyclists, motorcycle riders themselves are directly impacted by the force of the collision. The injuries that motorcyclists sustain can be catastrophic and include:

  • Traumatic brain injury – Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when a person receives a violent blow to the head. Concussions, skull fractures, and brain bleeds can all be life-threatening. The effects of traumatic brain injuries can be more than physical. Emotion, memory, and personality can all be affected by injuries to the brain as well.
  • Spinal damage – The spine carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body, and, as such, it is one of the most vital parts of the human body. A broken spinal cord can result in paralysis, a permanent and debilitating injury that affects every area of a person’s life.
  • Internal bleeding – Internal bleeding is life-threatening and can occur as a result of motorcycle accidents. However, internal bleeding is not always immediately obvious and may take some time to show itself. That’s just one reason why seeking prompt medical attention is imperative.
  • Broken/fractured bones – Broken and fractured bones are some of the most common injuries in motorcycle crashes since motorcyclists are typically directly impacted in a crash, bearing the full force of the vehicle that hits them.
  • Burns, scrapes, and “road rash” – If a motorcyclist is exposed to chemicals, fuel, or fire in a collision, this can cause burns, which can lead to permanent disfigurement. Debris from the crash may cause cuts and lacerations to the surface of the skin.  “Road rash” occurs when a motorcyclist slides across the pavement in a crash, scraping their skin in the process.

Penalties for Violating Alabama Motorcycle Laws

Violating Alabama motorcycle laws can lead to steep penalties. The consequences of ignoring or failing to abide by Alabama’s motorcycle laws can include:

  • License suspension
  • Traffic citations
  • Fines
  • Jail time

The consequences can extend to motorcycle claims as well. If you’re a motorcyclist who has been in an accident and you were at fault or even partly at fault because you violated applicable laws, then you may not be able to collect compensation due to Alabama’s strict contributory negligence law. According to this rule, if you were even just 1 percent at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you would not be able to recover compensation for your losses.

For instance, if a motorcyclist who was lane splitting or weaving between other vehicles is in an accident, they may not be able to collect compensation for the expenses incurred due to the accident.

As a result, it’s crucial that you have experienced representation on your side in a motorcycle accident case. A skilled motorcycle accident attorney will work hard to build a case that shows the other side was responsible for the accident that injured you.

Contact an Alabama Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

Were you injured in a motorcycle accident in Alabama caused by a negligent driver? The attorneys at Stokes Stemle LLC in Montgomery, AL are here to help. We will work with you to investigate your claim, identify the at-fault driver, interview any witnesses to the traffic collision, and fight for the fair settlement you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation with a compassionate and knowledgeable motorcycle accident lawyer in Montgomery, Dothan, or Auburn, Alabama.