Understanding California’s Motorcycle Safety Laws

man putting on a motorcycle helmet

What You Should Know About Riding a Motorcycle in California

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) maintains a handbook designated for motorcycle operators with requirements and recommendations for their safety, including protective equipment and operation standards. Here is what you need to know.

Obtaining a Motorcycle License

Minors as young as 15 1/2 may apply for a motorcycle license if they meet a list of 12 requirements. This includes certified driver education and motorcycle training courses, six months with a permit, and passing written tests. These vary by age and experience, as motorists 18 and over who already have a driver's license may not require the same amount of driver education.

Applicants must also complete a skills test, regardless of age. You can view an outline of this test here.

Protective Equipment

To keep all motorcycle riders safer and reduce injuries from accidents, California has a set list of standards and regulations for personal protective equipment that should be worn when riding.


According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), California is one of 18 states that has a universal helmet law. Per state requirements, these helmets must comply with the US Department of Transportation's standards and be certified by the manufacturer in this regard.

The DMV also outlines how you should maintain your helmet to ensure safety and proper use. You can view their recommendations here.


Since most certified motorcycle helmets are equipped with a face shield, California does not require that riders wear any kind of protective eyewear. However, it is highly recommended that riders have some form of protection on their eyes and face, if not already equipped.

Other Clothing

The state also recommends that riders be more mindful of the apparel they wear when riding. Recommended items include:

  • Long sleeve shirt or snug-fitting jacket with high visibility elements (bright colors, reflective)
  • Long pants - denim strongly encouraged
  • Closed-toe and over-the-ankle shoes
  • Leather gloves

Wearing ear protection is also encouraged to reduce hearing loss caused by wind or other environmental factors. However, state law prohibits wearing a headset, earplugs, or earphones in both ears, so choose accordingly.

Proper Motorcycle Operation

Proper motorcycle operation includes complying with DUI laws and limiting riding when fatigued. Motorcyclists must also ride within their abilities and avoid maneuvers or riding in weather conditions that may pose a severe threat to their safety.

Ensuring that all motorcyclists comply with state laws designed for their safety can help encourage safer behaviors whenever on the road.

California Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

The team at Manning Law, APC has years of experience in advocating for victims of motorcycle accidents. From debilitating injuries to loss of life, our Newport attorneys are committed to helping you or your loved ones recover compensation for damages resulting from a motorcycle accident caused by another driver’s negligence. Call (800) 783-5006 to discuss your representation options.

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