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Motorcycle Laws in Massachusetts

Motorcyclists in Massachusetts must abide by all the same traffic laws as other motorists. But they must also follow some laws unique to motorcyclists.

Many of these laws exist because operating a motorcycle exposes motorcyclists to greater risks than other drivers. Failing to follow these laws may jeopardize your ability to recover damages after an accident under the doctrine of comparative negligence. When your negligence contributes to an accident, any damages recoverable by your motorcycle accident lawyer will be reduced in proportion to your share of the fault.

Motorcycle Laws in Massachusetts

Here are some of the motorcycle laws in Massachusetts.

Helmet Law

Massachusetts requires motorcyclists and passengers to wear helmets. Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and save about 2,500 lives every year in the U.S. As a result, failing to wear a helmet could:

  • Subject you to a citation from law enforcement.
  • Expose you to substantial risk of serious head injury or death in an accident.
  • Reduce your damages for head injuries if a jury finds that the lack of helmet constituted negligence and contributed to the injuries.

Thus, wearing a helmet will reduce your physical and legal risk in a motorcycle accident.

Passenger Law

Massachusetts does not restrict the age or size of a motorcycle passenger. Thus, Massachusetts law would not restrict you from letting a child ride on your motorcycle.

But Massachusetts does impose some equipment restrictions:

  • Passengers must wear a helmet.
  • The motorcycle must be designed to carry a passenger.
  • The passenger must ride behind the operator or in a sidecar.

Passengers who fail to follow these laws jeopardize their compensation for a motorcycle accident on the theory that they contributed to their injuries.

Lane Splitting and Lane Sharing Law

Motorcyclists can maneuver motorcycles differently than cars and trucks. This allows practices like lane splitting and lane sharing.

Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle maneuvers between lanes of cars either in traffic or while stopped at a traffic signal. Lane sharing occurs when motorcycles ride abreast of each other in a single lane.

Massachusetts law permits lane sharing if only two motorcycles ride side-by-side. Massachusetts law prohibits all lane splitting.

Thus, motorcyclists injured while lane splitting might lose all right to compensation under Massachusetts law. According to the comparative negligence statute, someone who bears 51% or more of the fault for their injuries cannot recover any compensation. If the accident occurred because the motorcyclist was between vehicle lanes, the motorcyclist might reasonably bear the majority of the fault.

Motorcycle Operator’s License Laws

Motorcycle operators in Massachusetts must have a motorcycle license or a motorcycle endorsement for their driver’s license. To obtain licensing to operate a motorcycle, someone must:

  • Be over the age of 16 1/2.
  • Hold a motorcycle learner’s permit for at least six months.
  • Pass a road test or take a motorcycle rider education program. Applicants under the age of 18 must complete both a road test and a motorcycle rider education program.
  • Applicants under 18 must also complete a driver’s education course and have a clean record for six months prior to applying for the motorcycle license.

In Massachusetts, merely driving without a license does not make the motorcyclist negligent for the injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. However, the lack of a license might help show the motorcyclist did not know how to operate the motorcycle safely.

Recovering Compensation in Motorcycle Accidents

Your best chance of recovering compensation for any motorcycle accident injuries is to operate your motorcycle within the law. This eliminates the risk of having your compensation reduced or barred under Massachusetts’ contributory negligence law.