Motorcycling in Oregon offers breathtaking views and an exhilarating sense of freedom. However, with this thrill comes a significant level of risk.
In 2021, the number of motorcyclist fatalities reached a worrying high. According to the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), there were 5,932 motorcyclists killed on Oregon roads that year, accounting for 14% of all traffic fatalities. This figure, which is an 8% increase over the previous year, is the highest since FARS began collecting data in 1975.
In addition to these fatalities, an estimated 82,686 motorcyclists were injured, marking a 5% increase from the 78,944 injuries in 2020. These statistics highlight a stark reality: motorcyclists are at a significantly higher risk on the roads. In fact, per vehicle miles traveled in 2021, the fatality rate for motorcyclists was almost 24 times that of passenger car occupants.
Given these alarming numbers, it’s more important than ever for motorcyclists in Oregon to prioritize safety. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or new to the roads, understanding and following safety practices can be lifesaving. In this blog, the experienced motorcycle accident lawyers at Harris Velázquez Gibbens, PC explain Oregon’s motorcycle laws and what you need to know to stay safer while riding.
Oregon Motorcycle Laws Explained
Oregon has specific laws regarding motorcycling to ensure the safety of riders and others on the road. Here’s a straightforward look at what you need to know.
Mandatory Rider Education
Regardless of your experience, Oregon requires that you complete mandatory rider education to legally ride a motorcycle. There are two types of courses:
- Basic Rider Training (BRT): This is for beginners and covers the fundamentals of motorcycle operation.
- Intermediate Rider Training (IRT): For riders over 21, this course builds on basic skills and introduces more advanced techniques.
Completing a motorcycle rider education course may also help lower your insurance premiums, though this depends on your insurance agency.
Motorcycle Instruction Permit
To get on the road, you need a motorcycle instruction permit. The requirements are:
- You must be at least 16 years old.
- You need to have a valid driver’s license issued in Oregon.
- You are required to pass a test
After getting your instruction permit, you must complete an education course to receive a motorcycle endorsement on your license. This endorsement is what ultimately allows you to legally ride a motorcycle on public roads.
Remember, these laws are in place for your safety and the safety of others. Following them not only keeps you compliant with state regulations but also contributes to a safer riding environment for everyone.
Safety Tip #1: Know the Legal Requirements for Motorcycles in Oregon
In Oregon, there are several legal requirements that motorcycle owners and riders need to follow:
- Endorsement: Riders must have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. As mentioned earlier, this involves passing both a knowledge test and a skills test, or completing an approved motorcycle rider education course.
- Insurance: In Oregon, motorcycle riders are required to carry bodily injury liability, property damage liability, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Minimum amounts are $25,000 per person, $50,000 for two or more persons, and $20,000 for property damage. UM coverages are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury.
- Helmet Law: Oregon law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet. This rule applies regardless of the rider’s age.
- Eye Protection: If your motorcycle does not have a windscreen, you are required to wear glasses, goggles, or a face shield for eye protection.
- Lights and Mirrors: Motorcycles must have a working headlight, taillight, brake light, and rear reflector. They are also required to have at least one rearview mirror.
- Muffler: Your motorcycle must have a muffler. Oregon law prohibits cutouts, bypasses, or similar modifications that increase the noise emitted by the exhaust system.
- License Plate: Motorcycles must have a rear-mounted license plate.
- Lane Splitting: Any maneuver that involves sharing a lane or weaving between vehicles is illegal.
Motorcycle operators in Oregon must follow these requirements to ride safely and legally. These rules are designed not only to protect you as a rider but also to ensure the safety of others on the road.
Safety Tip #2: Wear Motorcycle Gear
Wearing the right gear is essential for a safer ride. In addition to the legally mandated helmet and eye protection, here’s a list of key items you should have:
- Jacket: A sturdy jacket, preferably made of leather or reinforced materials, can protect you from abrasions in case of a fall. Some jackets come with built-in armor for extra protection.
- Gloves: Durable gloves protect your hands from the elements and reduce injury during a fall. They also improve grip and comfort.
- Pants: Like jackets, pants made from leather or abrasion-resistant fabric protect your legs. Some riders prefer overpants that can be worn over regular clothing.
- Boots: Sturdy, over-the-ankle boots protect your feet and ankles. They should have non-slip soles and provide good support.
While this gear can improve your safety while riding, it’s also important to ride responsibly and follow traffic laws to prevent accidents. Proper gear can make a big difference in your comfort and protection while enjoying the roads of Oregon.
Safety Tip #3: Adjust Your Approach When Riding in Urban vs Rural Areas
When riding a motorcycle, it’s important to adjust your approach depending on whether you are in an urban or rural area, as each setting presents different challenges.
In urban environments, riders face high traffic density, which means dealing with frequent stops, navigating through tight spaces, and being mindful of pedestrians. Staying alert is imperative in cities, where cars may change lanes unexpectedly, doors may open suddenly, and pedestrians might step into the road without warning.
Other recommendations include:
- Maintain speed control due to traffic congestion and frequent stoplights.
- Position yourself where you are most visible to drivers, often near the middle or left side of your lane.
- Always have an eye out for safe escape routes in case you need to quickly avoid a sudden hazard.
Riding in rural areas comes with a different set of challenges. Road conditions vary greatly, with potential hazards like potholes, gravel, or uneven surfaces. With fewer street lights and more blind curves, visibility becomes a major concern, so it’s critical to use your headlight and approach curves cautiously.
Other tips for safer riding include:
- Riders in rural areas need to be vigilant for wildlife crossings, especially during dawn and dusk.
- When it comes to passing other vehicles, which is more common in these less congested areas, always ensure it’s safe and legal before attempting.
- Remember that emergency services may be farther away in rural settings, so ride responsibly and inform someone about your route.
In both urban and rural settings, the key to safe motorcycle riding is to stay alert, respect the specific conditions of the area, and always wear the appropriate safety gear. By adapting your riding style to your environment, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience on your motorcycle.
Safety Tip #4: Know the Rules for Solo vs. Group Riding
Riding a motorcycle can be a different experience when you’re alone compared to when you’re with a group. Both solo and group riding have their own advantages and require different approaches for a safe and enjoyable ride.
Solo riding offers a sense of freedom and independence. You have the flexibility to set your own pace, choose your route, and make spontaneous decisions. However, it demands a higher level of self-reliance. You need to be fully aware of your surroundings, able to navigate effectively, and prepared to handle any mechanical issues or emergencies on your own. It’s important to plan your route carefully, check your motorcycle thoroughly before departure, and always inform someone about your destination and expected return time.
Group riding, on the other hand, is about camaraderie and shared experiences. Riding with others can provide a sense of security and support. There’s strength in numbers, especially in situations like navigating through heavy traffic or handling a breakdown.
Group rides, however, require more organization. It’s important to establish a leader and a set formation (usually a staggered arrangement for better visibility and safety). Communication among group members is key, whether through hand signals or intercom systems. Pre-ride meetings to discuss the route, stops, and hand signals are also beneficial.
Whether you choose to ride solo or as part of a group, the core principles of motorcycle safety remain the same: stay alert, follow traffic rules, wear appropriate gear, and ride within your skill level. Both solo and group riding offer unique experiences and joys, and understanding the dynamics of each can enhance your overall riding experience.
How Does the Weather in Oregon Affect Motorcycle Riding?
The weather in Oregon requires riders to be adaptable and prepared for a variety of conditions. Oregon’s diverse climate can present challenges, but understanding and respecting these conditions can lead to a safe and enjoyable riding experience.
During the rainy seasons, roads can become slick and visibility can decrease. Wet conditions necessitate a more cautious riding approach, including reducing speed, allowing for longer braking distances, and using tires suited for wet roads. Rain gear is also essential to stay dry and maintain body temperature.
In colder months, frost and ice can be a hazard, especially early in the morning or shaded areas. Cold temperatures also mean that you should wear proper insulated gear to protect against hypothermia. Heated gear, such as gloves and jackets, can make winter riding more comfortable.
While summer in Oregon can offer ideal riding conditions, it’s still important to wear proper gear to protect against the sun and potential road rash. Higher temperatures can lead to dehydration, so carrying water and taking frequent breaks is important.
Finally, in regions like the Oregon coast or mountainous areas, fog can suddenly reduce visibility. When riding in fog, it’s important to reduce speed, use low-beam headlights, and wear high-visibility clothing to ensure you’re seen by other drivers.
Being aware of Oregon’s changing weather patterns and preparing accordingly can help ensure a safer, more enjoyable motorcycle riding experience. Always check the forecast before heading out, and remember that the key to dealing with any weather condition is to adjust your riding style, speed, and equipment to match the environment.
What Oregon Motorcycle Laws Should Out-of-State Riders Be Aware Of?
If you’re temporarily living out of Oregon but planning to apply for a motorcycle endorsement here, it’s important to know about the motorcycle rider education course requirements. Oregon allows you to complete an approved Motorcycle Rider Education Course in another state, but there are certain conditions to keep in mind.
You must apply for your motorcycle endorsement within two years of completing the course. However, if the course completion card has an earlier expiration date, you’ll need to apply before it expires.
The courses approved by the Oregon DMV include:
- California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) Motorcyclist Training Course
- Idaho Skills Training Advantage for Riders (STAR)
- Motorcycle Ohio Rider Enhancement (MORE)
- Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) motorcycle rider education course
- Puget Sound Safety Motorcycle Education Program (PSS-MEP)
- Total Control Riding Clinic
By completing any of these courses, you’ll be eligible to apply for a motorcycle endorsement in Oregon. This flexibility allows you to meet Oregon’s requirements even when you’re residing in a different state. Remember- having a motorcycle endorsement is essential for legally riding a motorcycle in Oregon, so ensure you complete the necessary steps within the specified timeframe.
Questions About Motorcycle Safety in Oregon?
By wearing the proper gear, staying aware of Oregon’s specific riding laws, and adapting to changing environments, motorcyclists can significantly enhance their safety and enjoyment on the road. However, even with the best precautions, accidents can happen.
If you’re injured while riding your motorcycle in Oregon, it’s important to have strong and reliable legal representation. At Harris Velázquez Gibbens, we understand the challenges riders face and are ready to aggressively demand the compensation and support you deserve. For more information or to schedule a no-obligation consultation, call 503-610-4398 or contact us online.