Motorcycles are a way of life for many folks. Some use them for pleasure, some to get from point A to point B. Moreover, these two- and three-wheeled motorized engine vehicles have been a way of life for proud members of biker associations for decades.

As with any other automobile driving on public roads in Florida, there are specific rules of the road that must be followed. Learn more about Clearwater motorcycle traffic laws and how they may impact your legal claim by scheduling a consultation with one of our knowledgeable motorcycle crash lawyers at Perenich Law Injury Attorneys.

The State Definition of A Motorcycle

In Florida, a motorcycle is a vehicle containing a motorized engine that has a seat or place for a saddle where a person can sit (Florida Statutes § 316.003). This vehicle cannot have more than three wheels attached to it. Ones with two wheels are referred to as motorcycles (i.e., motorbikes, choppers, etc.). If such a motorbike has three wheels, it is called an autocycle, tricycle, or trike. Bicycles, mopeds, and tractors are not motorcycles under Florida law.

Common Motorbike Infractions

A motorcycle traffic citation can be filed under civil or criminal law. Civil infractions tend to be filed under magistrate court as non-movable or movable violations. Those filed under criminal court are usually misdemeanor charges, but based on a rider’s driving history and additional offenses, a person might face felony charges.

Examples of motorcycle traffic offenses seen in Clearwater are:

  • A person riding without a motorcycle endorsement
  • A person cruising without a special motorbike license
  • An individual on a sports bike cited for popping a wheelie
  • An individual driving without the required motorcycle equipment

Riding Without License, Endorsement, or Proper Gear

Those who wish to ride a motorcycle around Clearwater do not have to obtain a standard driver’s license. They can apply for a motorcycle-only license from the DMV. However, when they drive, they must have a tag displayed on their license plate indicating that they have such a license under Fla. Stat § 316.2085. They must also carry proper title and vehicle insurance if they do not have a helmet or are involved in an accident.

Residents who already have a Florida driver’s license (DL) can have an identifier added to their DL indicating they are also authorized to drive a motorbike. This identifier is referred to as an endorsement. The endorsing agency is Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). To qualify for an endorsement, an individual must take FLHSMV-approved motorcycle operations, instructions, and a safety course (i.e., Florida Riding Training Program).

Floridians—or visitors—can face punishment for riding without a motorcycle license/endorsement, which is charged as a simple misdemeanor. The punishments are a fine of $500, two months in jail, or possibly 180 days of probation time under Fla. Stat § 322.03.

Those who ride without eye goggles and a helmet—unless they fit under an exception, such as purchasing medical insurance of ten thousand or more—can be charged with a non-moving offense and ordered to pay thirty dollars. However, this fine can increase depending on the nature of the charge and a rider’s driving history.

Is it Legal for Motorcycles to Drive on the Shoulder in Florida?

Unless state law provides an exception, bikers must follow the same rules as other drivers. The law does not allow any motor vehicle operator, including bikers, to drive on the shoulder. If a motorcyclist does so, they are not only violating the law but also engaging in hazardous behavior.

Visibility is a significant problem for bikers. It is difficult for other drivers to see them, and many drivers forget to look for them. Any driving behavior that goes outside the law, putting the biker in an unexpected location, makes it even less likely that other drivers will see them. Drivers do not expect non-emergency vehicles to drive on the shoulder, which should be left available for motor vehicle operators experiencing emergencies, first responders, and other authorized vehicles.

Motorcycle traffic regulations in Clearwater are explicit—bikers must stay in designated traffic lanes. In addition to not being allowed to ride on the shoulder, they cannot split lanes. Lane splitting is when a biker shares a lane with another driver or rides between lanes. It is illegal in most states, but some states permit it. Out-of-state drivers who are unfamiliar with Florida laws may not know this rule.

The only exception to the rules regarding lanes is for motorcycles sharing the lane with other motorcycles. State laws allow two motorcycles to ride abreast in a single lane.

Can Motorcycles Run Red Lights in Florida?

Bikers may be familiar with Dead Red laws. These laws allow bikers—and sometimes cyclists—to run red lights unless they trigger them. The theory is that stopping at red lights can be more dangerous to people on motorcycles than carefully proceeding through a red light.

Whether or not running a red light is safer for motorcyclists is debatable. What is not up for debate is that Florida law does not allow it. Just like any other motor vehicle operator, Florida bikers must stop at red lights and stop signs. They also have to obey any other traffic signs or signals. Failure to stop at a red light can be evidence of liability in a Clearwater motorcycle accident.

Talk to a Clearwater Attorney About How Motorcycle Traffic Laws May Impact Your Case

Contact our seasoned team of legal professionals at Perenich Law Injury Attorneys today. We are intimately familiar with Clearwater motorcycle traffic laws and can review the circumstances of your wreck to determine if they may play a role in your civil claim. Even if you are partially responsible for causing the collision, you may still be able to seek compensation from other negligent parties. Call today to learn more.

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