North Carolina Accident Lawyers Explain the Laws Governing Motorcycles

The five most important NC motorcycle laws you need to know

In 2015, according to the Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina, there were more than 3,000 motorcycle accidents in our state that resulted in injuries, and 162 of them were fatal. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we want you to be safe on the road, and we believe safety begins with following the law. These motorcycle laws are designed to help you stay safe.

North Carolina motorcycle equipment laws

A safe ride starts with the right, well-maintained equipment. Here are two important laws about your bike and your attire:

  • You must wear a helmet — According to North Carolina General Statute 20-140.4, riders of all ages and skill levels must wear a helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Because a helmet does no good if it flies off before you hit the ground, state law also requires you to ride with your chin strap securely fastened. Helmets significantly reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury and death in motorcycle crashes.
  • Your bike must have proper lights — Lack of visibility is the reason most often cited for a motorist hitting a motorcycle. That’s why motorcycles are required to have at least one, but not more than two, headlamps shining at all times and capable of rendering an object discernible from a distance of at least 200 feet. A rear red lamp must be discernible under normal conditions for at least 500 feet.

The law does not require additional protective clothing for motorcyclists, but boots, gloves, and jackets and pants made of Kevlar with protective padding are highly recommended. There were seven motorcycle fatalities in Raleigh in 2015, and five in Charlotte. Make sure you do everything possible to avoid a crash and lessen the harm to yourself if one happens.

North Carolina laws on motorcycle operation

Riding a motorcycle entitles you to a few privileges on the road. According to state law:

  • You are entitled to a full lane — Cars are not allowed to obstruct your full use of a lane, and you shouldn’t let them. Moreover, the law allows you to ride two abreast with other motorcycle, but that is much less safe than riding single file. Your maneuverability on a motorcycle is your greatest asset for avoiding accidents. Don’t let yourself be hemmed in.
  • You can use the HOV lane — HOV lanes on state roads and interstates are open to motorcycles. State law prohibits municipalities from excluding motorcycles from HOV lances.
  • You can roll through a red light (under certain conditions) — Many intersections have electromagnetic sensors imbedded in the pavement that control the traffic signals. A car rolling over an inductive loop detector, or ILD, alerts the traffic signal that a vehicle is present, which causes the light to turn green. Motorcycles are often too small to trip the ILD, so for them, the light never turns green. If this happens to you, you can legally roll through a red light if:
    • You have come to a complete stop and waited at least three minutes.
    • You are at an ILD-controlled traffic light.
    • No other vehicle is entitled to the right of way.
    • No pedestrians are attempting to cross.

North Carolina law does not specifically address lane splitting, but it is a very hazardous practice except in stopped or very slow-moving traffic. Avoid any unnecessary risks on the road, but if an accident finds you, help is only a phone call away.

Contact our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers in North Carolina

A motorcycle accident can easily cause painful, debilitating injuries. You can trust Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban to manage your case professionally and give you peace of mind. Schedule a free consultation and case evaluation today by calling us at (888) 351-1038 or contacting our office online.