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Whether you are just starting out as a new motorcyclist in Connecticut, have moved here from another state or are a seasoned rider, it’s important to know and understand Connecticut’s motorcycle laws. These rules are designed to keep you safe and free from harm as you navigate Connecticut’s roadways. Obeying them can reduce your risk of getting into a motorcycle accident and legal trouble.
Depending on the design of your bike, it can be difficult to know if it is technically a motorcycle under Connecticut law. According to Section 14-1 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, a motorcycle is a motor vehicle with or without a sidecar that has no more than three wheels, a saddle or seat that the rider straddles (or a platform on which the rider stands), and handlebars that control the movement of the vehicle. Motorcycles are classified as motor vehicles in Connecticut, meaning their riders are subject to the same traffic laws, rules, regulations, rights and responsibilities as other motorists.
You cannot operate a motorcycle on a standard Connecticut driver’s license. You must get a motorcycle (“M”) endorsement on your standard license or a motorcycle learner’s permit. This is accomplished by passing a motorcycle knowledge test and vision test and attending a novice motorcycle safety course.
All motorcycle riders in Connecticut are required to carry automobile insurance. The minimum required coverages are $25,000 per person in bodily injury insurance, $50,000 per accident and $25,000 in property damage liability. You can also opt for additional coverage if you want protection for your own injuries or damage to your bike after an at-fault accident.
According to Section 14-289 of Connecticut’s Vehicle Highway Use law, all motorcycle operators and passengers who are under the age of 18 must wear approved safety helmets while riding. Any operator who is using a motorcycle learner’s permit must wear a helmet, regardless of age. Eye protection – such as goggles, glasses or a face shield – is also mandatory for riders and passengers unless the motorcycle is equipped with a windshield.
Before you take a motorcycle on a public road in Connecticut, ensure that it has all the required pieces of equipment. According to Connecticut’s Motorcycle Manual, this includes a minimum of one headlight, a taillight and brake light, front and rear brakes, turn signals, a horn, and two mirrors. In addition, to be street legal in Connecticut, a motorcycle must have the correct design. If you wish to carry passengers, for example, your motorcycle must be specifically designed to carry others.
Section 14-289b of Connecticut’s traffic laws prohibits lane-splitting. It states that the operator of a motorcycle is entitled to the full use of a single traffic lane. A motorcyclist cannot ride side-by-side with a passenger car or more than one other motorcycle. A motorcyclist cannot overtake and pass a vehicle (other than another motorcycle) in the same lane occupied by that vehicle. Finally, a motorcyclist cannot ride on the line between two lanes of traffic at any time.
If you get into a motorcycle accident, Connecticut’s fault-based insurance law means that the person who caused the crash must pay for the damages through his or her insurance policy. If you are found to have contributed to the accident, the comparative negligence rule will reduce your financial recovery by an amount that is equivalent to your percentage of fault. Your contributory or comparative negligence will not bar you entirely from recovery, however, as long as you are less than 51 percent at fault.
For more information about the motorcycle laws in Connecticut that may pertain to you after an accident, contact Jacobs & Jacobs for a free consultation. Their New Haven motorcycle accident attorneys understand the local laws and regulations and will be able to help you explore your legal options.