The Law Firm of Mitchell Howie
Motorcycle Laws in Huntsville, AL
Motorcycle accidents can happen at any moment in Huntsville, leading to severe – if not fatal – injuries. Just as with automobiles, there are specific motorcycle laws in Alabama that all drivers must abide by, but unfortunately, not everyone does. Failure to abide by proper motorcycle traffic safety requirements is a leading cause of accidents. Personal injury lawyer Mitchell Howie knows that some motorcycle accidents cannot be foreseen and are the direct result of someone else’s negligence; however, by understanding and abiding by the proper state laws, the number of incidents can be drastically reduced.
Below is an explanation of Huntsville, AL motorcycle laws that all riders are expected to follow as well as the requirements to obtain a motorcycle license.
Age Requirements for Obtaining a Motorcycle License in Huntsville
Every person who operates a motor vehicle in Huntsville or in any roadway in the state of Alabama must have a valid driver’s license. And just like with automobile driver’s licenses, there are specific age requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license in Huntsville.
Alabama law recognizes two classes of engine-equipped cycles:
- Motorcycle – Defined as a motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the rider and designed to travel on three wheels or less. Does not include a tractor.
- Motor-Driven Cycle – Defined as every type of motorcycle, including a motor scooter which does not exceed 150 cubic centimeter engine displacement and weighs less than 200 pounds fully equipped, and every bicycle that has a motor attached.
For a motorcycle license with an “M Class” designation, the minimum age for applicants is 14 years. An “M Class” license allows the driver to operate either a motorcycle or a motor-driven cycle if over 16 years of age. Motorists under 16 will carry a “B” restriction for use on a motor-driven cycle with 5 horsepower or smaller only. When the operator turns 16, the “B” restriction will be removed upon returning to the DMV office.
Motorcycle Application Process
If the age requirement is met, the first step in the application process to obtain a motorcycle license in Huntsville is to take a written exam. Applicants should study the Alabama Motorcycle Manual to learn about vehicle safety and traffic laws. The manual includes sections on basic license requirements, vehicle control and tips on how to properly and safely operate a motorcycle.
Safety courses are also available for motorcyclists via the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) website
After reading and studying the manual, motorists can apply for their license at a local Huntsville DMV. A certified U.S. birth certificate, Social Security card, another form of identification, and a school enrollment form (if 14 or 15 years old) must be provided. The standard fee for testing is $5 and the fee to obtain the license is $23.50.
Laws Prior to 1990
If you obtained an Alabama driver’s license before 1990 and it is currently valid, then you automatically have a motorcycle license. On the top right corner of the license should read “Class D” and if there is also an “M,” that means you are already licensed to drive a motorcycle in the state.
Registering Your Motorcycle
In Huntsville, as well as across the entire state of Alabama, motorcycles must be registered just as automobiles and trucks are. The process for registering a motorcycle is identical to registering another type of motor vehicle. A title must be obtained prior to the registration process, which can be procured at a local DMV and even at some banks or credit unions. The motorcycle must be registered within 20 days of purchase and motorists are required to obtain liability insurance. If the motorcycle was purchased in Alabama, it will not be subject to inspection when applying for a tag. If it was purchased outside the state, then it must undergo inspection before registering.
Alabama Motorcycle Traffic Laws
Motorcycle laws in Alabama are unique in the sense that they encompass all the basic motor vehicle traffic safety laws, including refraining from operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as specific laws that apply only to motorcycles.
The following are the specific traffic laws required for all motorcycle drivers in Alabama:
- Motorcyclists must have their driver’s license in possession at all times when operating their vehicle.
- Motorcyclists must ride only on the vehicle’s regular seat and must not carry a passenger unless the cycle is designed to carry more than one person. A separate passenger seat and separate passenger footrest are required by law. There is no age restriction for passengers.
- Motorcyclists must not operate the cycle while carrying any package or article which prevents them from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
- Motorcyclists must wear approved protective headgear (helmet). Eye protection is not required, but advised.
- Motorcyclists must wear shoes when operating their cycles.
- A motorcycle’s handlebar must not exceed 15 inches above the operator’s seat.
- Motorcyclists may not attach themselves or their vehicle to another vehicle on the road.
- All motorcycles are entitled to full use of traffic lanes. No motor vehicle should be driven in a way that deprives a motorcycle full use of a lane.
- Motorcyclists may not overtake and pass a vehicle in the same lane.
- A motorcycle must not be driven between traffic lanes or rows of vehicles.
- A motorcycle must not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
- A motorcycle must have, at minimum, the following features:
- Headlight, taillight and breaklight
- Front and rear breaks
- Turn signals
- One mirror
Motorcycle Safety Recommendations
While there are specific traffic laws governing the use of motorcycles in Alabama, there are also ways to ensure drivers are operating their cycles as safely as possible. The following are some suggestions that can help reduce motorcycle accidents in Huntsville and across the entire state:
- Motorcyclists are encouraged to attach a plastic face shield to their helmets for added protection and to wear protective clothing, including a jacket, pants and sturdy shoes, to reduce the chance of injury in a collision or if the motorcycle slips during unfavorable weather conditions.
- Riders should become familiar with their cycles and ensure their cycles are right for their build. A rider’s feet should reach the ground while seated on the cycle and the controls should be easy to operate. Beginners are advised to operate smaller motorcycles until they become accustomed to riding.
- Motorcycles are more prone to mechanical failures than other motor vehicles. While there are no specific laws in Alabama requiring periodic safety inspections, drivers should check their cycles before every ride to ensure the cycle is working properly.
- Motorcyclists should stay in the lane where they are most likely to be seen and maintain a cushion of space between vehicles. Drivers should always use proper signals when changing lanes or turning as well as should pay close attention to identify hazards on the road in order to prevent accidents.
- Riders are advised to be extra cautious when approaching turns and curves. Drivers who take curves and turns too fast may end up crossing into another lane or going off the road completely. There four steps should be followed to help reduce the chance of drivers losing control of their cycles:
- Reduce speed when approaching a turn
- Look through the turn to where you want to go. Turn only your head, not your shoulders, and keep eyes level with the horizon.
- When turning, do not over-lean the motorcycle. Counterbalance the lean by keeping your body straight.
- Roll on the throttle to maintain or slightly increase speed to help stabilize the motorcycle.
- Motorcyclists should learn how and when to stop or swerve to avoid a collision. Motorcycles must be able to swerve around an obstacle on the road or make a quick stop in case of an emergency.
- Watch for uneven road conditions, construction, or obstacles on the road that may cause an accident.
- Fasten all loads securely with elastic cords with more than one attachment point. Keep the loads forward. Heavier items should be stored in the front of the tank bag and lighter items should be packed toward the back.
- Always carry a tool kit in the event of a roadside emergency.
Rules for Group Riding in Huntsville
Many motorcyclists in Huntsville enjoy riding in groups. However, accidents can happen much more easily when there are multiple riders on the road. The following are rules that apply to group riding that all motorcyclists in the city and state should abide by:
- Riders should base the length of their route and travel areas on the ability of the least experienced motorcyclist.
- Groups should take frequent breaks to reduce fatigue and stay alert.
- Riders should adjust their pace throughout curves based on the ability of the least experienced motorcyclist.
- Riders should not tailgate one another or other vehicles.
- Adequate following distance and a staggered formation should be maintained.
- Motorcyclists should not pass other drivers in the group except in the event of an emergency.
- The least experienced motorcyclists should ride behind the leader to keep a safe pace.
- All riders should be conscious of traffic conditions, regardless of what the motorist in front of them does.
- Drivers should maintain adequate time distance.
- Riders should frequently check mirrors to ensure the group stays together.
Although a motorcyclist may abide by all these laws and regulations, accidents can – and still do – occur. If you or someone you love was hurt in a motorcycle accident in Huntsville, turn to the Law Firm of Mitchell Howie today to discuss your options in filing a case and recovering damages for your pain and suffering.
Huntsville motorcycle accident attorney Mitch Howie works diligently to make sure your rights are protected and will do everything in his power so your case can resolve quickly and with the most favorable outcome. Call the firm today to see what compensation you may qualify for following your motorcycle accident.