Nothing says summer like heading down the highway with the wind in your face, but few things in life are as free and easy as they appear at first glance. Although many states are stricter with their legal requirements for motorcycles, Oklahoma isn’t without its own regulations. Before you saddle up, make sure you understand the rules of the road.
Do I Need a Special License?
Tempting as it may be to just hop on that bike and take off, you can’t do it with your regular driver’s license unless your license has a special “M” endorsement. So how do you get the endorsement? The process isn’t much different from getting your driver’s license. You’ll need a slew of identifying documents – your birth certificate, a Social Security card and anything that legally substantiates a name change such as a divorce decree or marriage license. You must take a written test, an eye exam and a driving test. Passing the written test and the eye exam earns you a motorcycle learner’s permit. You can drive a bike with the permit, but only with someone who is age 21 or older and has an M endorsement of his own. He must either be on board with you or in visual range of you and your bike.
Oklahoma waives the driving test if you complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course approved by the state. If you get a learner’s permit, you must hold it for at least 30 days before you’re eligible for an M endorsement.
Must I Wear a Helmet?
When you get past the licensing hurdle, you still can’t just hop on that motorcycle and take off without a helmet – at least not if you’re age 18 or younger. You need one by law if you’re a minor, and you’ll probably want to wear one even if you’re older. Although Oklahoma law is more lenient than other states in this respect – some require that all riders wear helmets – it’s a comparative negligence state in the unfortunate event that you’re involved in an accident. This means that if you’re even partially responsible for the mishap, the other guy – the one who caused the collision – won’t have to pay you the full extent of damages you’re entitled to because they’ll be reduced by your degree of fault. Even if the law doesn’t require you to wear a helmet, a jury could find that you were just plain negligent for not doing so because a reasonable person would assume that riding a bike puts you at risk for head injury. If you shrugged that risk off, any personal injury lawsuit award may be reduced by your degree of negligence. Say you would have received $100,000 in damages, but the jury decides that your negligence constitutes 50 percent liability for the accident. You’d receive only $50,000.
As a practical matter, Oklahoma law also requires that your face be shielded against the possibility of flying debris. This means your bike must be equipped with a windscreen of sufficient size and thickness to protect you, or you must wear goggles or a face shield. If you’re going to go to all that trouble, you might as well put on a helmet as well.
Can I Take a Friend Along for the Ride?You don’t want to ride alone, and you don’t have to under Oklahoma law, at least if you’re age 16 or older. But your bike must be specially equipped to carry an extra passenger. This means its wheels are at least 12 inches in diameter and it has either a second seat with foot rests or a sidecar. The same helmet rules apply to your passengers. If they’re under 18, they need helmets. If they’re older and they choose not to wear a helmet, they do so at their own risk.
What About Insurance?
Oklahoma has minimum insurance requirements for motorcycles, but because it’s an at-fault state where the driver who is responsible for an accident pays for the damages, you might want to consider buying a policy that covers a little more than the basics. You’ll need at least $10,000 in bodily injury liability insurance, but this covers only you, the operator. If you’re planning on taking friends along, you’ll need $20,000 in injury liability insurance to cover additional persons. You must carry at least $10,000 in property damage liability insurance. These requirements provide compulsory liability coverage under Oklahoma law.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is usually a good idea as well. This kicks in if you’re injured in a hit-and-run accident so we can’t identify the other driver who should pay for your injuries and property damage. If your injuries or damages exceed the other driver’s insurance coverage or if he’s uninsured, this type of coverage kicks in as well.
If you haven’t enrolled for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course so you have to take the driving test for your M endorsement, you’ll need proof of your insurance coverage with you when you take the test.
You’re Ready, Get to Riding!
Now it’s time to tackle Oklahoma roads on the back of a motorcycle. Keep in mind that some – but not all – of the normal requirements are waived if you plan only off-road enjoyment on your bike. Riders under 18 still need helmets, however. When you’re on the road, Oklahoma law also prohibits motorcycles to drive between lanes (sometimes called lane-splitting).
If, in spite of all your precautions, you and your motorcycle run into trouble on the road, you’ll undoubtedly have a lot more questions. Call us today at (405) 703-4567– we have the answers.