Rules of the Road and Tips for Riders (Motorcycles)
Michigan Motor Vehicle Law
Every rider should be aware of all Michigan's motor vehicle laws, particularly those which apply specifically to motorcycles. These laws can be found in the Michigan Motorcycle Operator Manual available from the Secretary of State and can be obtained at any Secretary of State branch office.
Training and Licensing
In Michigan, half of all motorcycle fatalities involve riders who are not properly licensed. Michigan law requires a motorcycle endorsement (CY) on a driver's license to legally ride a motorcycle on the state's roadways. It is a misdemeanor to ride a motorcycle without a CY endorsement and can result in points on a driving record and fines up to $300.
Motorcyclists under 18 years of age with a Michigan driver's license are required to take a motorcycle safety course to obtain a motorcycle endorsement. Although applicants over 18 years old are not required to take an instruction course, it is highly recommended for all new or returning riders of all ages. Training and education is an ongoing process for every rider and should not end with licensure.
The Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program currently provides Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic and Returning Rider Basic Rider Courses for $25. Visit the Michigan Department of State Motorcycle Safety Program to locate the nearest training site.
Proper riding gear helps protect riders in the event of a crash. It also provides comfort, as well as protection from heat, cold, debris, and hot and moving parts of the motorcycle. It can also make riders more visible to other motorists.
- Helmet: Wear a DOT-compliant helmet that allows you see as far to the sides as necessary. Make sure the fit is snug and the helmet has no obvious defects such as cracks, loose padding, or frayed straps. Never wear a helmet that has been involved in a crash or dropped on the ground as this could ruin the effectiveness of the helmet. A full face helmet is strongly recommended for all riders.
- Eye and Face Protection: Use a plastic face shield or goggles to protect eyes from wind, dust, dirt, rain, insects, and stones. Make sure eye or face protection is free of scratches, made of material that does not shatter, and gives a clear view to either side.
- Body Protection: Wear protective riding gear, including long sleeves, pants, gloves, and over-the-ankle boots. Thick leather or other material such as Kevlar will provide greater protection in the event of a crash.
- Visibility: Wear brightly colored clothing that includes fluorescent red, orange, yellow, or green and retro-reflective trim to increase your visibility to other motorists.
Key Riding Skills
There are three basic but important skills that can help make a ride a safer experience:
- Negotiating Curves: Riders should slow down before a curve, look where they want to go, press the handlebar in the same direction as the curve, and roll on the throttle during a turn.
- Turning: Connect the dots by looking to the end of the turn and the motorcycle will follow.
- Braking: Seventy percent of a motorcycle's stopping power is in the front brake. Squeezing the front brake and pressing down on the rear brake will allow a rider to make smooth, controlled stops.
Riding a motorcycle is a demanding and complex task. Riders need to pay attention to the riding environment to identify potential hazards and execute decisions quickly and skillfully. Alcohol and drugs, more than any other factor, degrade a rider's ability to think clearly and to ride safely. In Michigan, alcohol was involved in 35 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes in 2012.
Motorcycle Equipment Checklist
A motorcycle needs more frequent attention than a passenger vehicle. A minor technical failure on a car is seldom more than an inconvenience for the driver. The same failure on a motorcycle could result in a crash. Riders should conduct a pre-ride inspection before every ride.
- Tires and Brakes: Check the air pressure, tread, bearings, and brakes. Brakes should feel firm and hold the motorcycle when applied.
- Controls: Check levers, switches, cables, hoses, and throttle. Make sure they work smoothly. The throttle should snap back when let go.
- Lights and Electrical: Make sure brake lights, headlights, taillights, and turn signals all work.
- Oil and Other Fluids: Check for leaks and the levels of gas, oil, brake fluid, and coolant.
- Chassis: Check the suspension and chain, belt, or drive shaft.
- Stands and Mirrors: Make sure side and center stands are functioning correctly. Clean and adjust mirrors.
For more information on motorcycle safety, visit the following websites: