Motorcycle Laws in North Carolina

motorcycles on highway

Motorcyclists in North Carolina have the same rights and privileges as any other driver on the road. However, because of their relative lack of protection, motorcycle riders are uniquely vulnerable in the event of a collision. Like many other states, North Carolina has specific motorcycle laws to keep riders safe. If you are a motorcyclist or plan to ride a motorcycle in North Carolina, it’s a good idea to review the laws to understand those that apply to you.

If you were injured in a North Carolina motorcycle accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you should also know that the law is on your side. The trusted North Carolina motorcycle accident attorneys of Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC can help. Contact us now to learn more in a free consultation.

North Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Law

All motorcycle operators and passengers who ride along North Carolina highways or public roads are required to wear helmets. Motorcycle helmets must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, which outlines specific manufacturing and labeling requirements. The law also specifies that motorcycle chin straps must be properly secured. Violations can result in citations and fines.

Motorcycle License Requirements in North Carolina

To operate a motorcycle in North Carolina, you must have one of the following:

  • A full provisional license with a motorcycle endorsement
  • A regular driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement
  • A full provisional license with a motorcycle learner’s permit
  • A regular driver’s license with a motorcycle learner’s permit

To earn a motorcycle endorsement in North Carolina, you must pass four tests:

  • A motorcycle knowledge test
  • A traffic sign test
  • A vision test
  • A practical motorcycle skills test

Motorcyclists can apply for a learner’s permit up to 12 months before obtaining a motorcycle endorsement. However, you must complete the vision, traffic signs, and motorcycle knowledge tests before you can acquire a permit.

Additional Motorcycle Safety Requirements in North Carolina

To be considered “street legal” in North Carolina, motorcycles must be equipped with the following safety features:

  • At least one but no more than two headlamps
  • Rear taillights that are clearly visible from 500 feet away
  • A working brake system, whether hand- or foot-operated
  • Turn signals
  • A functioning horn
  • A rearview mirror that provides a clear view at least 200 feet to the rear
  • An exhaust system that complies with emissions control standards

Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina Motorcycle Laws

Our lawyers are happy to answer questions and discuss motorcycle laws in North Carolina. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.

North Carolina Motorcycle Laws

Can you register a motorcycle without a license in North Carolina?

Technically speaking, you aren’t required to have a license or motorcycle endorsement to register a motorcycle in North Carolina. However, you will need to show proof of motorcycle insurance before you can register your bike.

This can be a problem if you don’t have a license because most insurance providers require a driver’s license before they will provide you coverage. There may be some insurers who will sell you coverage without a license, but they tend to charge higher premiums.

The bottom line is, it’s difficult but possible to register a motorcycle without a license in North Carolina.

Is lane splitting legal in North Carolina?

Lane splitting, sometimes also called “filtering” or “white lining,” refers to steering a motorcycle in between two lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction. Some motorcyclists do this to avoid congestion, but lane splitting can be dangerous. So many states have laws against the practice.

North Carolina law, however, makes no specific mention of lane splitting. This means that even though lane splitting may be discouraged, it is not specifically prohibited by law.

Do you need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter in North Carolina?

It depends. Most motorized scooters are legally defined as motorcycles per North Carolina law. The only exception involves scooters with engines that do not exceed 50cc, which are legally considered mopeds.

If you drive a moped, you don’t need a motorcycle endorsement or even a driver’s license. You must, however, be at least 16 years old, register your moped with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and carry liability insurance.

If you drive a motorized scooter with an engine that’s greater than 50cc, it’s considered a motorcycle by law. This means you must register and insure it as a motorcycle and have a motorcycle license to operate the scooter on public roads.

How old do you need to be to get a motorcycle license in North Carolina?

There is no specific “motorcycle license” in North Carolina. Instead, there are motorcycle learner’s permits and motorcycle endorsements.

To apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit, you must be at least 16 years old. If you are at least 16 but less than 18 years old, you must have a full provisional license from the DMV along with the signature of a parent or guardian. If you are 18 or older, you must have a standard driver’s license.

To apply for a motorcycle endorsement, you must have a full provisional or standard driver’s license, hold your learner’s permit for at least 12 months, and pass a series of relevant tests.

Talk to a North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Now

Unfortunately, even the most careful motorcyclists are sometimes involved in crashes. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that was caused by someone else, the motorcycle accident attorneys of Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC will stand up for you. We have extensive knowledge of North Carolina motorcycle laws, and we are ready to put that knowledge to work for you.

Our family-run law firm has served motorcycle accident victims in Wilmington, Wadesboro, and throughout North Carolina for more than 40 years. We understand how devastating these accidents can be. Our team is committed to fighting for the full and fair compensation you need to get your life back on track. We can discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation. Contact us now to get started.