Are Motorcycles Dangerous? by: Vancouver, WA Personal Injury Attorney Colin Scott

Startling Facts & Important Laws Concerning Motorcycles in the State of Washington

Vancouver, WA Personal Injury Attorney Colin Scott’s grandfather riding a Triumph Tiger, circa 1950s (before mandatory helmet laws)!

Motorcyclists are up to five times more likely to be injured and thirty times more likely to be killed in a collision than occupants of vehicles. The majority of folks who share the road with Washington’s 230,000+ motorcyclists are unaware of these startling facts, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Here at The Scott Law Firm, PLLC we understand the unique challenges motorcyclists face on public roads and give these cases the special attention they deserve. When you contact our firm, you will speak directly with a an attorney. We offer free consultations and accept cases on a contingency basis. To learn more about how our firm can assist you or a loved one with a motorcycle injury, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC and speak with Vancouver, WA personal injury attorney Colin Scott about your case today!


Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about riding a motorcycle on public roads in the State of Washington. Attempts were made to ensure this information is accurate and complete. However, it is not always possible to update this information on a regular basis and you should not rely or act upon this information without first consulting with an attorney.

Do I need a motorcycle endorsement?

Yes, motorcyclists in Washington must

have an endorsement on their license. If you operate a motorcycle without an endorsement, your motorcycle may be impounded. For additional information, see the Washington Department of Licensing Motorcycle Operator Manual.

How many motorcyclists are injured in the State of Washington every year?

During the three-year period from 2009 to 2011, there were 6,640 crashes involving motorcycles.

  • 1,249 resulted in serious injury
  • 206 resulted in death

These statistics are maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and can be accessed here.

What time of day do most motorcycle crashes occur?

Studies conducted by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission indicate the majority of motorcycle-related crashes occur during peak riding season (May through September) when traffic is heaviest (from 3 PM and 6 PM).

Do mandatory helmet laws prevent deaths?

Head injuries are the leading cause of motorcycle-related deaths. Such fatalities occur ten times more frequently in states that do not have mandatory helmet laws. As with other types of motor vehicle accidents, additional factors include inattentive drivers, poor weather conditions, equipment failure, speeding, dangerous roadways, and motorists who are under the influence of alcohol/drugs.

Do motorcyclists have to wear a helmet in Washington?

Yes, everyone must wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle in the State of Washington. See RCW 46.37.530. Additionally, all helmets must be approved by the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT approved”).

What is “DOT approved”?

DOT approved helmets are certified by the manufacture as meeting standards set forth by the United States Department of Transportation. All DOT approved helmets must be clearly labeled with a sticker indicating the helmet is made to DOT specifications. For additional information on what it means to be DOT approved, click here.

Is my helmet DOT approved?

All DOT approved helmets must be clearly labeled with a sticker indicating the helmet is made to DOT specifications. In order to help motorcyclists determine which helmets can be worn legally in the State of Washington, the Washington State Patrol publishes a “Bogus Helmet Brochure” that compares legal helmets with illegal (i.e. “bogus”) helmets. This brochure also contains additional information on how to properly identify whether your helmet is DOT approved.

What is the motorcycle helmet law in Washington?

The basic helmet law in Washington can be found under RCW 46.37.530.

Are there federal helmet laws for motorcyclists?

Most states that have mandatory helmet laws also require helmets to comply with Federal Standards. These standards are contained under 49 CFR 571.218 (a.k.a. “Standard No. 218”).

Can motorcyclists split lanes in Washington?

No, lane splitting is illegal in the State of Washington. For additional information, see RCW 46.61.608.

Can motorcyclists ride side-by-side in Washington?

Yes, each motorcyclist is entitled to their own lane and two motorcyclists may ride next to each other. However, no more than two motorcyclists may ride next to each other in a single lane. See RCW 46.61.608.

Are motorcyclists required to use headlights during the day?

Yes, motorcyclists are required to use headlights at all times. See RCW 46.37.522. Modulating headlights are permitted under CFR Title 49, Section 571.108.

Are motorcyclists required to use turn signals?

Yes, but only if your motorcycle was originally equipped with turn signals. See RCW 46.37.070.

Are motorcyclists required to wear eye protection?

Yes, motorcyclists are required to use eye protection unless the motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen. See RCW 46.37.530.

Are “ape hangers” legal in Washington?

It depends on how high your handlebars extend. Handlebars must not extend higher than 30″ above the seat. See RCW 46.61.611.

Is there an age limit for motorcycle passengers?

Passengers under 5 years old are prohibited from riding a motorcycle. See AGO 1984 No. 29 – December 5, 1984.

Disclaimer: Web content is not legal advice. Using this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about a legal matter, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction and is familiar with the facts in your situation. To learn more about how The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with a personal injury related matter, contact our office today for a free consultation: (360) 718-3640.