Missouri is a popular motorcycle destination for its picturesque roadways. Motorcycle riders enjoy scenic rides in iconic biking locations such as Route 66 from St. Louis to the Grey Pass Summit crossing the Meramec River, or the 50-mile “Lazy 8” ride along highway 8 through the Mark Twain National Forest and into Missouri’s mining region. But before you ride off to try out some new technical challenges and enjoy Missouri’s mild weather and scenic views from the seat of a bike, it’s important to know Missouri’s motorcycle laws. Failure to follow the state’s laws can result in misdemeanor fines and penalties — it could also ruin your day’s ride or end in an unfortunate motorcycle accident.
Motorcycle Licensing Laws in Missouri
Before you head out on your bike, the first thing to fully understand is Missouri’s motorcycle licensing laws. The state requires a state-approved Class M license or a driver’s license with a Class M endorsement to operate a motorcycle on the roadways legally. It’s also necessary to pass a vision test. All applicants over 15.5 years must take the Class F and Class M written and on-the road tests. However, applicants may opt to take a Motorcycle Rider Training Course (MRTC) to bypass the on-the-road test.
Underage applicants require a parent or guardian’s signature to get a Class M license, endorsement, or permit.
Permit-holders under 16 may only ride during daylight hours and aren’t allowed to carry passengers. They’re also restricted to rides within 50 miles of their home.
Missouri’s Helmet Laws for Motorcyclists
Missouri updated its helmet laws in 2020 and removed its previous universal helmet law. Since that time it’s legal for anyone over age 26 to ride without a helmet as long as they have health insurance that would cover any head injury they might suffer in an accident. Their coverage must include the following:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident
- $10,000 in property damage insurance per accident
Permit holders of any age must still wear a helmet at all times while driving a motorcycle. Though police officers are not allowed to pull over a motorcyclist solely for not wearing a helmet, the state’s secondary enforcement law means you could be penalized with an additional ticket for not wearing a helmet if you’re under the age of 26 and pulled over for a traffic violation.
Serious head injuries and traumatic brain injuries have increased dramatically since Missouri relaxed its helmet laws in 2020. Not wearing a helmet may increase your percentage of fault in an accident and reduce the amount of your compensation in a St. Louis brain injury case. It’s also important to note that all passengers on motorcycles must still wear a helmet regardless of age.
Understanding Lane-Sharing and Lane-Splitting Laws
Some states allow motorcyclists to ride side-by-side or in a staggered position in a single lane, known as lane-sharing. These states also typically allow lane-splitting, which is when a motorcycle rides between two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Missouri’s motorcycle laws are unfortunately vague on these two practices. The laws don’t expressly permit either lane splitting or lane sharing but also don’t forbid them. However, it’s important to understand that an accident that occurs while a motorcyclist in Missouri is lane-splitting or lane-sharing may increase the driver’s percentage of fault and reduce their settlement. Missouri’s pure comparative negligence law means you can still recover compensation even if you’re partly at fault in an accident but your compensation is reduced by the percentage you’re found at fault.
It’s essential to fully familiarize yourself with Missouri’s motorcycle laws before you head out to the open road.