Russell & Hill, PLLC

Washington State Motorcycle Laws

Posted on : October 31, 2023Posted By : Russell HillPosted In : Motorcycle Accident

Motorcycle Laws Designed to Protect

Motorcycling in Washington State offers an unparalleled sense of liberty, with the road stretching out beneath the ever-changing skies of the Pacific Northwest. Yet, with this freedom comes a network of laws designed to protect riders and ensure the well-being of everyone on the road. This guide serves as your compass through the landscape of Washington’s motorcycle regulations, from helmet requirements to lane-splitting rules. Understanding these laws is about more than just compliance; it’s about embracing a culture of safety and respect that enhances the motorcycling experience for all.

On This Page:

  1. Washington Motorcycle Helmet And Equipment Laws: A Summary Of RCW 46.37.530
  2. Washington Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws: What You Need To Know
  3. RCW 46.20.500: Special Endorsements And Exceptions For Driving Specialized Vehicles In Washington State
  4. Understanding Motorcycle Insurance Laws In Washington State
  5. Washington State Laws On Mopeds, E-Bikes, And Motorized Scooters
  6. Need Help? Contact Russell & Hill, Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Washington Motorcycle Helmet And Equipment Laws: A Summary Of RCW 46.37.530

Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.37.530 lays out the requirements for helmets and other equipment for motorcycles, mopeds, and motor-driven cycles.

Helmet Requirements

It’s unlawful to ride or operate a motorcycle, moped, or motor-driven cycle on public roads without wearing a certified motorcycle helmet. The helmet must have:

  • A hard outer shell
  • Padding inside the shell
  • A neck or chin strap for retention

There are exemptions if the vehicle has specific features like a steering wheel, seat belts conforming to federal standards, and an enclosed seating area meeting specific criteria. The neck or chin strap of the helmet must be securely fastened when the vehicle is moving.

Why DOT Compliance Matters

The Department of Transportation sets certain safety standards that all helmets must meet to be considered road-legal. These standards require an impact-resistant outer shell and an impact-absorbing inner liner, typically made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam. Moreover, the helmet should also have a comfort liner and a secure retention system, generally a neck or chin strap. Novelty helmets, often worn for aesthetic reasons, do not meet DOT compliance and are illegal to wear on public roadways in Washington.

Types Of Helmets And Their Safety Levels

Helmets come in various styles, such as full-face, modular or flip-up, three-quarter shell, and half-shell helmets. Full-face helmets are considered the safest as they offer complete coverage of the head and face, providing the most protection in the event of a crash. However, whatever the style, all helmets legally used in Washington must at least be DOT compliant.

Lifespan Of A Helmet And When To Replace

Helmets are not forever. Even the best ones suffer from wear and tear and should be replaced after a certain period. Many manufacturers recommend replacing a helmet every five years due to the degradation of protective materials over time. Also, if your helmet has obvious defects such as cracks, or if it’s been involved in an accident, it’s time to invest in a new one.

Visibility And Choosing The Right Color

Another aspect to consider when picking a helmet is visibility. Being easily seen by other motorists can significantly reduce risks. Therefore, opting for a brightly colored or white helmet over a dark-colored one can be a life-saving choice.

Rules For Electric-Assisted Bicycles

If you’re operating an electric-assisted bicycle, you’re expected to follow all laws related to bicycle helmets.

Mirror Requirements

The law states it’s illegal to operate a motorcycle, moped, or motor-driven cycle that doesn’t have mirrors on both the left and right sides. These mirrors should give the driver a complete view of the road for at least 200 feet behind them. However, motorcycles or motor-driven cycles over 25 years old that were originally manufactured without mirrors are exempt, provided they have been restored to their original condition and are being used in connection with antique or classic events.

Washington Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws: What You Need To Know

Washington State Law On Lane Splitting

In Washington State, lane splitting is illegal. According to Washington State law, motorcyclists must obey the same rules of the road as other vehicles, which includes not passing vehicles within the same lane. Riding between lanes, commonly known as “lane splitting”, and riding on the shoulder are specifically against the law.

Seeing And Being Seen: The Role Of Lane Choice

Choosing the right lane can significantly enhance your safety and visibility while riding. Your lane choice impacts both your ability to see and be seen by other road users. It’s essential to constantly assess what the best lane and position are for you at any given time. Each lane will have its advantages and disadvantages depending on various factors such as traffic, road conditions, and your speed.

RCW 46.20.500: Special Endorsements And Exceptions For Driving Specialized Vehicles In Washington State

Navigating the legalities surrounding specialized vehicles in Washington State can be complex. Washington Revised Code 46.20.500 is a pivotal statute that outlines what kinds of special endorsements are needed for different types of vehicles, the penalties for non-compliance, and certain exemptions.

Special Endorsements For Motorcycles And Motor-Driven Cycles

In Washington State, operating a two or three-wheeled motorcycle or a motor-driven cycle is generally contingent upon having a special endorsement on your driver’s license.

Moped Operation And Age Restrictions

The statute allows for some flexibility when it comes to mopeds. Anyone who is 16 years or older and holds any class of valid driver’s license can operate a moped without requiring a special endorsement or examination.

Electric-Assisted Bicycles

Electric-assisted bicycles are becoming more popular, and in Washington, you don’t need a special license to operate one. However, there is an age limit: individuals under the age of 16 cannot operate a class 3 electric-assisted bicycle.

Rules For Mobility Assistive Devices

Washington law makes it easier for individuals who rely on electric personal assistive mobility devices or power wheelchairs, as they can operate these without requiring a driver’s license. This is an important measure that increases accessibility and mobility for those who need these devices.

Motorized Foot Scooters—Rules And Restrictions

Motorized foot scooters do not require a special license for operation, however those under the age of 16 are generally restricted from operating these devices unless otherwise specified by local jurisdiction.

Safety is also a concern, especially during low-light conditions. Hence, these scooters must have reflectors of a type approved by the state patrol when operated a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise. They are also restricted to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour on roadways or bicycle lanes.

Understanding Motorcycle Insurance Laws In Washington State

What Does Washington State Law Say?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) has specific provisions relating to mandatory liability insurance for motor vehicles, including motorcycles. According to RCW 46.30.020, no person may operate a motor vehicle in Washington State unless they meet one of the following requirements:

  • Insured Under A Motor Vehicle Liability Policy
  • Self-Insured
  • Covered By A Certificate Of Deposit
  • Covered By A Liability Bond

If asked by a law enforcement officer, you are required to show proof of financial responsibility for motor vehicle operation.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are specific exceptions where these provisions don’t apply. For example, the law does not govern the operation of certain motor-driven cycles, mopeds, or wheeled all-terrain vehicles.

What Are The Minimum Requirements?

Washington State Law RCW 46.29.090 outlines the minimum requirements for motor vehicle insurance policies or bonds. To be considered valid, these policies or bonds must be issued by an insurance company or surety company authorized to operate in Washington State. Moreover, the policy should cover at least $25,000 for bodily injury or death to one person in a single accident. If two or more people are injured or killed in the accident, the minimum coverage increases to $50,000. Additionally, the policy must provide at least $10,000 for property damage resulting from any single accident.

Washington State Laws On Mopeds, E-Bikes, And Motorized Scooters

Understanding the laws around operating motorized scooters, electric-assisted bicycles, and mopeds is crucial for residents of Washington State. The Revised Code of Washington Section 46.61.710 outlines these laws.

Moped Registration And Operation

Mopeds in Washington State must be registered, and the registration number must be displayed on the vehicle. These mopeds are not allowed to be operated on bike paths, hiking trails, equestrian trails, or certain highways with limited access.

Electric-Assisted Bicycles

Electric-assisted bicycles are generally exempt from the requirements applied to mopeds, such as registration. These bicycles have access to state highways and can be parked similarly to regular bicycles. Class one electric-assisted bicycles and class two electric-assisted bicycles can be driven on shared-use paths and bicycle-designated parts of highways unless otherwise restricted.

Motorized Foot Scooters

Motorized foot scooters are allowed on certain paths and highways unless built or maintained with federal transportation funds. In that case, their use is prohibited. Unlike mopeds, motorized foot scooters do not require registration. Subsections outlining the requirements for mopeds do not generally apply to motorized foot scooters.


Operators of EPAMDs (electronic personal assistive mobility devices) must obey all speed limits and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and human-powered devices. They are considered as pedestrians and must signal in an audible manner before passing or overtaking a pedestrian. Municipalities and state agencies can regulate the use and speed of EPAMDs under specific conditions.

Restrictions And Local Jurisdiction

Local jurisdictions or state agencies can restrict the use of motorized foot scooters and electric-assisted bicycles. Class 3 electric-assisted bicycles are generally restricted from shared-use paths unless local jurisdictions allow them.

Need Help? Contact A Russell & Hill Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Suffered a motorcycle accident and grappling with injuries, medical bills, and emotional trauma? Know that you’re not alone. Navigating the complex maze of motorcycle laws to secure your rightful compensation can be overwhelming. That’s where the motorcycle accident attorneys at Russell & Hill come in. Our seasoned team focuses on providing personalized, effective legal counsel for motorcycle accident victims. Don’t shoulder this burden by yourself; let us advocate for you. Contact a WA motorcycle accident lawyer today at (360) 996-6023 or online to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

Click To Call