Though Louisiana law mandates automobile drivers wear a seat belt, motorcyclists can get ride without a seat belt, air bag and some other forms of protection found in traditional vehicles. This is just one of the many idiosyncrasies of Louisiana’s traffic laws that seem a bit hypocritical on the surface. Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity, especially in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other busy parts of the Pelican State. Here is everything you need to know about motorcycle safety laws in Louisiana.
Motorcycle riders in New Orleans and other parts of our beautiful state are legally required to wear a helmet. Even passengers riding behind the bike operator or seated in a sidecar are required to don a protective helmet. The helmet cannot be any old type of headgear. Rather, it must be specifically made for motorcycle riders.
Louisiana’s Revised Statutes 32:190 states motorcycle helmets must be firmly secured to the head with a chin strap whenever the vehicle is in motion. Aside from a chin strap, the helmet also requires padding, lining and a visor. The motorcycle helmet must also conform to specifications detailed by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections' Deputy Secretary, sometimes referred to as the Commissioner.
Louisiana’s Revised Statute 32:190.1 states motorcycle operators must don goggles, a face shield or safety glasses unless their motorcycle has a windshield with sufficient eye protection. This protective eyewear must conform to the performance specifications outlined by the fore-mentioned commissioner. If goggles or safety glasses are worn, they must be combined with an open-faced helmet. Though tinted eye protection is allowed during the daytime, this protection is not permissible when riding at night as it reduces vision.
Zooming around New Orleans on a motorcycle is that much more dangerous if your hands are not firmly latched onto the handlebars. In fact, state law requires all Louisiana motorcycle riders to keep both hands attached to the handlebars. If you have to transport anything, do not hold it in one hand or put it on your lap. Put the item in a storage container connected to the rear of the motorcycle so your hands remain on the handlebars at all times. Another nuance of the state's motorcycle safety laws is that the handlebars cannot be so high that the operator's hands have to be positioned above the shoulders when seated on the bike.
Lane splitting is legal in some parts of the country. However, lane splitting in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana is illegal. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between two vehicles in two distinct lanes. This maneuver certainly provides a thrill yet it is dangerous and illegal according to state law. Resist the temptation to lane split when you are stuck in a traffic jam, wait until traffic clears up and you will not run the risk of being pulled over and ticketed.
You cannot ride a motorcycle in New Orleans or anywhere else in the Pelican State unless you have the proper endorsement. All motorcyclists require a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license. The purpose of obtaining this endorsement is to prove you are capable of operating a motorcycle in a safe manner. If you do not have a motorcycle endorsement, head on over to the closest Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles branch to schedule an appointment for the motorcycle skills test and knowledge exam. Do not be intimidated by this exam. It is merely a list of questions regarding how you should proceed when faced with certain road situations.
If you've been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact Wright & Gray.