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Motorcycle and Scooter Season is Approaching

With the mild winter weather Missouri has experienced this year the motorcycle riding season has never really ended. The outlook for gas prices this year also makes the economy of the motorcycle even more enticing. If you own a motorcycle or are contemplating the purchase of one, please keep your safety and the laws pertaining to the operation of motorcycles in mind.

Motorcycle fatalities represent approximately 10 percent of all Missouri highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent approximately 2.6 percent of all registered vehicles in Missouri. One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides no protection in a crash.

An automobile has more weight and bulk than a motorcycle. It has door beams and a roof to provide some measure of protection from impact or rollover. It has cushioning and airbags to soften impact and safety belts to hold passengers in their seats. Automobiles have windshield washers and wipers to increase visibility in the rain and snow. An automobile has more stability because it's on four wheels, and because of its size, it is easier to see. A motorcycle suffers in comparison when considering vehicle characteristics that directly contribute to occupant safety. What a motorcycle sacrifices in weight, bulk, and other crashworthiness characteristics is somewhat offset by its agility, maneuverability, ability to stop quickly, and ability to swerve quickly when necessary.

Remember that a motorcyclist must abide by the same traffic rules and regulations as other motorists. Before taking your motorcycle on a public road, become familiar with traffic rules and regulations and any special requirements for motorcycles. These can be found in the Department of Revenue's Motorcycle Operator's Guide.

In addition, Section 302.020 RSMo. states:

Unless otherwise provided for by law, it shall be unlawful for any person, except those expressly exempted by Section 302.080 RSMo., to:

(1) Operate any vehicle upon any highway in this state unless the person has a valid license;

(2) Operate a motorcycle or motortricycle upon any highway of this state unless such person has a valid license that shows the person has successfully passed an examination for the operation of a motorcycle or motortricycle as prescribed by the director. The director may indicate such upon a valid license issued to such person, or shall issue a license restricting the applicant to the operation of a motorcycle or motortricycle if the actual demonstration, required by Section 302.173 RSMo., is conducted on such vehicle;

(3) Authorize or knowingly permit a motorcycle or motortricycle owned by such person or under such person's control to be driven upon any highway by any person whose license does not indicate that the person has passed the examination for the operation of a motorcycle or motortricycle or has been issued an instruction permit therefor;

(4) Operate a motor vehicle with an instruction permit or license issued to another person.

2. Every person operating or riding as a passenger on any motorcycle or motortricycle, as defined in Section 301.010 RSMo., upon any highway of this state shall wear protective headgear at all times the vehicle is in motion. The protective headgear shall meet reasonable standards and specifications established by the director.

3. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 302.340 RSMo. any person convicted of violating subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection 1 of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Any person convicted a third or subsequent time of violating subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection 1 of this section is guilty of a class D felony. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 302.340 RSMo., violation of subdivisions (3) and (4) of subsection 1 of this section is a class C misdemeanor and the penalty for failure to wear protective headgear as required by subsection 2 of this section is an infraction for which a fine not to exceed $25 may be imposed.

The protective headgear shall meet reasonable standards and specifications established by the director. Those standards and specifications are those required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established standards for motorcycle helmets to ensure a certain degree of protection in a crash in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. (Code of Federal Register, Title 49, Volume 5, Part 571, Section 218, October 2003.) DOT-compliant helmets are helmets that meet this safety standard, while noncompliant helmets are helmets that do not. FMVSS 218 and compliance test results for motorcycle helmets can be viewed on NHTSA's web site

DOT-compliant helmets are identified by a sticker inside the helmet. For the purposes of the National Occupant Protection Use Survey's (NOPUS) nonintrusive observation, NOPUS data collectors categorize noncompliant helmets as helmets that have a small coverage area (such as "beanie helmet")) or some protrusion (such as a spike).

Safety helmets save lives by reducing the extent of head injuries in the event of a crash. Many good helmets are available. Make sure it fits comfortably and snugly, and is fastened for the ride. In choosing a helmet, look for the DOT label on the helmet. The DOT label on helmets constitutes the manufacturer's certification that the helmet conforms to the federal standard. In many states, use of a helmet is required by law. Passengers should also wear a helmet.

Wear the right shoes, gloves, and clothing. Thick, protective garb not only provides comfort against the elements, but also may be all there is between you and the pavement in a crash.

Car and truck drivers need to share the road with motorcyclists and keep the following in mind:

  • Drivers should actively watch for motorcyclists.
  • Motorcycles may look farther away than they are due to their smaller size. It is also difficult to judge the speed at which a motorcycle is traveling as it approaches.
  • Motorcycles are hidden easily in a vehicle's blind spots, or masked by objects or backgrounds. Thoroughly check traffic before changing lanes!
  • Motorcyclists may slow down by downshifting or easing off the throttle. So, you may not see a brake light. Allow extra distance between you and a motorcycle.
  • A motorcycle's turn signal does not cancel after the turn like a vehicle's signal does. So, pay attention, the motorcycle may not be turning.
  • A motorcyclist will often adjust their position in the lane in order to be seen more easily and to avoid debris, wind, or passing vehicles. Allow the motorcyclist to share the lane; don't assume they are being reckless.
  • Stopping distance for motorcycles is similar to that of cars. But, slippery pavement can make stopping quickly difficult. Please allow more distance behind a motorcycle in these types of road conditions.

It's important that motorcyclists take an active role in their safety. Keep these in mind when you're on the road:

  • Be visible. Motorists often have a hard time seeing you. Keep your headlight on, day or night. Use reflective strips/decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle. Be aware of other vehicle's blind spots.
  • Dress for safety. Wear a helmet and eye protection. Wear bright clothing. Wear thick or leather clothing for protection.
  • Think safety while riding. Give yourself space to react to other motorists' actions. Use lane positioning to increase visibility. Watch for turning vehicles. Signal your next action in advance. Pretend you're invisible and drive defensively.
  • Know your bike. Get formal training and take refresher courses. Practice riding your motorcycle before going into heavy traffic. Know how to handle your motorcycle in all types of road conditions.

Motor Scooters and Mini Cycles:

Scooters and motorized bicycles have been advertised as toys, but unless you have a driver's license, they are illegal to operate on public streets and highways.

Many of today's trendy scooters––gas or electric––qualify as motorized bicycles, and Missouri law explicitly prohibits the operation of a motorized bicycle on a public street unless the driver holds a valid license to operate a motor vehicle. (307.195.1, RSMo.) Operating motorized bicycles on interstate highways is also prohibited. (307.195.2, RSMo.)

No helmet is required for the operator of the motorized bicycle, but it is recommended, and the motorized bicycle is not required to be licensed. A motorized bicycle is, “Any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device having an automatic transmission and a motor with a cylinder capacity of not more than 50 cubic centimeters, which produces less than three gross brake horsepower, and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground.” (Sections 301.130 and 307.180.2, RSMo.)

The electric equivalency to 50cc is 2237.1 watts of power. Therefore, any motorized bicycle or scooter (gas or electric), which does not meet the specifications above, is classified as a motorcycle and the rider and cycle must be licensed as such. For more information please click here to see the Patrol's Motorcycle Safety Brochure.

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