What to know before driving a motorcycle in Georgia
It is important for all motorcyclists to be familiar with Georgia motorcycle laws to help avoid accidents and traffic violations. Each state has its own laws regarding the use of motorcycles. Failure to know these laws could not only result in a fine or penalty but also lead to serious legal consequences in the event of a motorcycle accident.
Georgia’s traffic laws specifically pertaining to motorcycles can be found under Sections 40-6-310 thru 40-6-315 of Georgia’s Motor Vehicles and Traffic code.
Continue reading to learn more about the laws, requirements and restrictions that all motorcyclists in Georgia must follow.
Motorcycle traffic laws
Operators of a motorcycle are required to follow all traffic laws, just like passenger vehicle drivers. Violations of these traffic laws will result in the same penalties that apply to all other drivers.
Laws relating to the function of a vehicle (such as working headlights, etc.) also apply to all motorcycles operating in Georgia.
Every person operating a motorcycle shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter except as to special regulations in this part and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
Passengers and general motorcycle riding laws
A passenger may only ride if the motorcycle is designed to carry more than 1 person.
When operating a motorcycle, the driver must sit astride the seat, facing forward, with 1 leg on either side of the bike.
In addition, operators may not carry a package that prevents them from keeping both hands on the handlebars, nor can they carry a passenger if doing so interferes with the operation of the motorcycle or their view. A passenger can’t ride on a motorcycle without a seat or in any manner that would inhibit the operator from driving the motorcycle safely.
Lastly, under this statute, all motorcycle operators cannot wear socks only (without proper footwear) when riding their bikes.
(a) A person operating a motorcycle shall ride only upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto; and such operator shall not carry any other person nor shall any other person ride on a motorcycle unless such motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person, in which event a passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat if designed for two persons or upon another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle at the rear or side of the operator.
(b) A person shall ride upon a motorcycle equipped with handlebars for directional control only by sitting astride the seat, facing forward, and with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.
(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle while carrying any package, bundle, or other article which prevents him from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
(d) No operator shall carry any person, nor shall any person ride, in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.
(e) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he shall wear some type of footwear in addition to or other than socks.
Operating a motorcycle on Georgia roads
It is illegal for a motorcycle to “lane split” when driving in Georgia. Lane splitting is defined as sharing the same lane as a passenger vehicle or driving between 2 passenger vehicles to pass them.
Motorcycles are allowed to ride 2 abreast in a lane if the lane is large enough to safely accommodate this. More than 2 motorcycles can’t ride abreast in the same lane.
Motorcycles must operate with their headlights and tail lights on at all times.
(a) All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane, and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such a manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This subsection shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.
(b) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
(d) Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
(e) A person operating a motorcycle shall at all times keep his headlights and taillights illuminated.
“Clinging” to other vehicles
It is against the law for a motorcycle operator to attach themself or their motorcycle to any other vehicle while driving.
No person riding upon a motorcycle shall attach himself or the motorcycle to any other vehicle on a roadway.
Footrests and handlebars
Georgia law requires that any motorcycle that is designed to carry a passenger must have footrests available for that passenger to use while the motorcycle is in operation.
The law also specifies that handlebars on a motorcycle can’t be more than 215 inches higher than the seat of the operator, and that any seat rest used for the passenger (sometimes known as a “sissy bar”) can’t create a sharp point at the top.
(a) Any motorcycle carrying a passenger, other than in a sidecar or enclosed cab, shall be equipped with footrests for such passenger.
(b) No person shall operate any motorcycle with handlebars more than 25 inches in height above that portion of the seat occupied by the operator or with a backrest more commonly known as a sissy bar that is designed in such a way as to create a sharp point at its apex..
Headgear and eye-protective devices for riders
The state of Georgia requires all motorcycle operators and their passengers to use an approved helmet. These helmets must have Department of Transportation (DOT) approval for construction and protection.
State law further states that anyone operating a motorcycle must have a windshield that is large enough to offer eye protection, have a visor on their helmet or use approved eyewear.
Georgia mandatory motorcycle helmet law
Georgia passed the state’s first mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 1969, and this requirement is still enforced today.
Certain states only require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet if they are under a certain age. For example, in South Carolina, only motorcycle operators and passengers under 21 are required to wear a helmet.
In Georgia, ALL motorcyclists must wear a helmet when riding or operating a motorcycle.
According to the Commissioner of Public Safety, motorcycle helmets must meet Department of Transportation helmet standards as detailed in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218. These requirements rate each helmet’s performance and effectiveness, demonstrating that the helmet is “a significant factor in the reduction of critical and fatal injuries involving motorcyclists in motorcycle crashes.”
These 3 tests are used to evaluate motorcycle helmet performance:
- Energy absorbance test. The helmet must exhibit “a minimum level of energy absorbency upon impact with a fixed, hard object.” This is determined by dropping the helmet at 4 different sites onto 2 anvils and measuring the impact force.
- Penetration test. The helmet must also pass the penetration test, in which a metal striker is dropped 118.1 inches in a guided free fall onto a helmet that is mounted on a headform. “To meet the performance requirement, the striker may not contact the surface of the headform.”
- Retention test. Lastly, the helmet must pass the retention system test showing that the chin strap and any other component of the retention system can withstand force or loads being applied, as might occur during a motorcycle crash. “To meet the performance requirement, the helmet’s retention system may not break while the loads are being applied and the adjustable portion of the retention system may not move more than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) during the test.”
Unfortunately, non-authorized “DOT approved” stickers can be purchased online, making it difficult for motorcycle riders and operators to know which helmets are safe and legal. As of May 13, 2013, all DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets sold in the U.S. must have a label on the back that contains:
- The helmet manufacturer and/or brand
- The model designation, and
- The phrase “DOT, FMVSS No. 2018, Certified”.
The only exceptions to Georgia’s motorcycle helmet law are that riders in an enclosed cab or motorized cart and operators of a 3-wheeled motorcycle strictly used for agricultural purposes are not required to wear a helmet.
The penalties for breaking Georgia’s mandatory helmet law are a fine of up to $1,000, up to 1 year in jail and/or community service. What’s more, the personal consequences of not wearing a helmet can be far worse since statistics show that helmets reduce your risk of death by 37% and lower your risk of head injury by 69% in the event of an accident.
If you are in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet, you or your passenger may be seriously injured or killed, which is the worst punishment of all.
(a) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he or she is wearing protective headgear which complies with standards established by the commissioner of public safety.
(b) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle if the motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield unless he or she is wearing an eye-protective device of a type approved by the commissioner of public safety.
(c) This Code section shall not apply to persons riding within an enclosed cab or motorized cart. This Code section shall not apply to a person operating a three-wheeled motorcycle used only for agricultural purposes.
(d) The commissioner of public safety is authorized to approve or disapprove protective headgear and eye-protective devices required in this Code section and to issue and enforce regulations establishing standards and specifications for the approval thereof. The commissioner shall publish in print or electronically lists of all protective headgear and eye-protective devices by name and type which have been approved..
Additional requirements of operating a motorcycle in Georgia
All motorcycles must have seating provided for the operator and any passenger. A passenger can’t ride on a motorcycle without a seat or in any manner that would inhibit the operator from driving the motorcycle safely.
All motorcycles are required to have side mirrors. Motorcycles manufactured after 1972 must have turn signals. All motorcycles are required to have brake lights.
Age restrictions and licensing
Operators of a motorcycle must be at least 16 years of age and have successfully passed a Georgia motorcycle license test. They must have a Class M designation on their license. All drivers must also successfully pass an eye exam.
Georgia Code 40-2-2 requires that all motorcycles are registered with the state to operate legally. However, the motorcycle doesn’t require a title.
Motorcycle insurance requirements
All operators of a motorcycle must carry auto insurance coverage that meets the state minimum for coverage. The minimum insurance levels required by Georgia law are as follows:
- $25,000 bodily insurance per person per accident
- $50,000 bodily injury for all people per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability
Additional insurance coverage such as uninsured/underinsured motorist, personal liability, collision and comprehensive is optional in Georgia. Though it’s not required, we recommend having some (if not all) of these optional policies to fully protect yourself from financial loss in the event of a serious motorcycle wreck.
Motorcycle safety tips
Although the following tips are not technically a part of Georgia law, motorcyclists are encouraged to follow these guidelines in order to avoid motorcycle accidents and injuries:
- Wear closed-toe shoes. It’s always recommended that a person who is operating a motorcycle should wear solid, closed-toe shoes. This prevents foot injuries in the event of debris kicking up from the road or during an accident.
- Be careful when entering a highway. Many motorcycle accidents happen when a biker is leaving the on-ramp and entering the highway. This is because they are less visible than a passenger vehicle. Be extra cautious when entering a highway.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Due to the open and exposed nature of riding a motorcycle, motorcyclists should wear full-coverage, heavy-duty clothing when operating a motorcycle. Long, sturdy pants made of denim or leather and long-sleeved shirts are highly encouraged. For optimal protection, wear gloves.
- Keep your motorcycle in good working order. Motorcycles with broken headlights or bad tires are more likely to be involved in an accident. Be sure to properly maintain your bike.
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, it’s important that you speak with a knowledgeable Georgia attorney near you as soon as possible. Motorcycle accidents often result in life-changing and catastrophic injuries. It may be necessary to get help from an experienced motorcycle crash attorney in order to protect your rights as an accident victim.