Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler August 13, 2015

The Texas Department of Public Safety reports around 500 deaths every year due to motorcycle accidents, representing about 15% of Texas’ traffic fatalities. With hundreds of Texans dying each year, current and prospective riders should heed ways to enhance their safety on our roads to avoid becoming another devastating statistic.

Motorcycle Safety Courses

A motorcycle is a far different vehicle than a car, and riders need special training in how to ride safely. Texas offers a number of motorcycle safety courses, and the Texas DPS provides a list of training centers for locations across the state on its website.

This training can be taken at various levels, including a basic course for persons with little or no riding experience. They’re taught how to avoid dangerous situations, what’s the best protective clothing and, of course, how to operate the motorcycle. At course’s end participants will have their skills challenged at a two-year rider level.

An advanced course is designed for experienced riders who want to improve their skills. They learn how to handle quick swerving and avoidance techniques, as well as high-speed maneuvering, traction control, counter-steering and emergency braking for slippery surfaces or sudden curves.

Motorcycle Licensing

It’s not enough for Texas motorcyclists to have a license to drive an automobile. To drive a motorcycle or moped, they also must get a Class M license. This can be done by first taking a motorcycle safety course approved by the DPS (unless the rider already has a motorcycle license from another state).

Minors also must have a Class C learner license to drive a car or have taken a classroom driver education course and must take a motorcycle driving test. All applicants must pass a vision test, but applicants 18 and older need not take a driving test if they’ve taken a motorcycle safety course and have an unrestricted license to drive a car.

Registering a motorcycle in Texas follows the same procedures and requirements as registering a car. Motorcycle registration requires the following:

  • Proof of Ownership
  • Personal Identification
  • Proof of Insurance
  • State Inspection

Types of Motorcycles for Safety Concerns

Some motorcycles are more dangerous than others, depending on road conditions and the environment. “Trail” bikes ridden on highways are more prone to crashes than motorcycles designed for highway use by virtue of the latter motorcycles’ more powerful braking systems and tires designed to grip pavement.

Some of the more dangerous types of motorcycles are high-speed street bikes, off-road motorcycles and garage-built racers.

Motorcycle Safety Laws

Motorcycle safety laws vary from state to state, but in general, motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as the drivers of other vehicles. In Texas, motorcyclists are not allowed to do “lane splitting,” meaning they travel on the line between two lanes of traffic. However, motorcyclists can ride two abreast in the same lane, since Texas law does not address that practice.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, requiring everyone riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Texas law does not require drivers over 21 years old to wear a helmet, provided they have completed rider training or they have medical insurance covering injuries in a motorcycle crash.

After Texas repealed its law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, the state had a 31% increase in motorcycle fatalities the next year.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

Motorcyclists can follow many safety tips to enhance their chances of avoiding a crash or surviving one. These include wearing a protective helmet, which can greatly increase riders’ odds of surviving a crash and avoiding a traumatic brain injury.

Consumer Reports magazine also advises riders to wear other protective gear to shield against insects, debris, winds and road rash in a fall. Reinforced leather jackets, full pants, gloves and over-the-ankle footwear are recommended, even in summer.

A helmet visor or goggles also are advised for eye protection, as is brightly-colored gear to be more visible to other drivers.

The magazine also urges motorcyclists to drive defensively, since car drivers have been shown to be at fault in 60% of motorcycle crashes. Often, car drivers claim they simply didn’t see or notice a motorcycle just before a collision. That puts extra pressure on motorcyclists to be wary of car drivers, especially in this era of rampant texting and other driving distractions.

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