What You Need to Know About Riding a Motorcycle in Alabama

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2018 at 4:46 pm    

Riding a motorcycle can be one of the most thrilling ways of getting around town, often providing an unmatched feeling of freedom during an otherwise normal commute. However, since some legislation has recently changed, everyone may not be aware of the current Alabama motorcycle laws and others may have questions about what they’re legally required to have on their person during a ride. If you’re currently a rider or plan to become one soon, here’s what you need to know about riding a motorcycle in the Yellowhammer State so you can stay safe and avoid getting pulled over.

A Change in Alabama Motorcycle Laws

For many years, Alabama was the only state that did not require a specific license or endorsement for operating a motorcycle. It only required the rider have a regular driver’s license and be 16 years of age or older. That law was recently changed. As of May 2015, all Alabama riders must possess a driver’s license with a class M endorsement to operate a motorcycle. To obtain the endorsement, you must either pass the DPS’ motorcycle knowledge exam or complete a motorcycle safety course.

Helmets and Other Legally Required Accessories

An endorsement isn’t the only thing required to ride. According to Alabama law Section 32-12-41, a safety helmet “specifically designed for motorcycle riders and motorcycle passenger use” is legally required when operating a motorcycle. The law also has specifications regarding the exterior shell, padding, chin strap and cradle. Visors, while not required, must be flexible or “of a snap on type” for example. Here is some more information about legally required accessories and regulations, as detailed by AmericanMotorcyclist.com:


  • Passenger seat and footrest (if carrying a passenger)
  • Left and right mirrors
  • Compulsory liability insurance
  • Handlebars less than 15 inches above the seat
  • Daytime headlight use


Not Required/Regulated

  • Eye protection
  • Noise limits
  • Passenger age restrictions
  • Muffler noise and style
  • Periodic safety inspections
  • Turn signals


Riders should also be aware that lane splitting, which refers to driving in between traffic lanes on the center lines, is illegal. However, two bikes may share one lane side by side.

Not Legally Required, But Always Recommended

Unfortunately, motorcycle collisions, especially those involving vehicles, are all too common. There were 74 motorcycle driver fatalities in 2015.1 That same year, motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14 percent of total traffic fatalities nationwide.2 These statistics highlight the importance of utilizing certain safety items and why they’re recommended by riding experts even though they’re not legally required.

  • Eye Protection – A visor, glasses or windshield attached to the front of the bike protects eyes from harmful rocks and dirt that fly toward the face at high speeds. This helps keep eyes both clear and on the road. Sunglasses during the day can protect from debris and bright sunshine. Just remember to remove them at night and switch to clear protection.
  • Footwear – Sturdy, closed-toe footwear covering the entire foot and ankle should always be worn by motorcyclists and passengers while riding. This protects feet from road rash, debris and burns from the scorching hot engine components. Any leather or work boot will provide ample protection. Low-top canvas shoes and sandals should be avoided.
  • Clothing – Like footwear, long sleeves and pant legs are always recommended for protecting limbs from the elements and road rash. Leather works best, but denim or any other thick material will suffice. Try to avoid baggy or loose-fitting clothing, as they may get caught on a tree branch or other roadside hazard.
  • Gloves – Aside from your head, your hands are doing the most work to keep you safe, so you might as well protect them. Thick gloves protect from debris and the elements and help riders maintain their grip during a long ride. Leather gloves are best, but again, any protective material with a gripping surface on the palms and fingers will be more than enough.

In the Worst-Case Scenario, You Will Need Legal Protection

Despite riders’ best efforts and the many laws in place to keep all motorists safe while sharing the road, accidents do happen. In those instances, it’s important you seek experienced legal services from lawyers who will fight for your best interests.

Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP have many years of experience advocating for motorcyclists who were seriously injured in an accident that could have been avoided had another driver acted responsibly. If you or a loved have been injured in a collision and you believe you are entitled to financial compensation, contact Farris, Riley & Pitt by calling 205-324-1212 or visit our website to start your FREE case evaluation today!

1 http://drivesafealabama.org/uploads/files/ALDOT-2015-CrashFactsBook.pdf
2 https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2017-01/Spotlight%20Motorcycle%202016%20H.pdf

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