A Quick Guide to US Motorcycle Mirror Laws

USA Motorcycle Mirror Laws

Motorcycle riding is a great pastime, and it’s also an awesome way to 
get around cost effectively. Countless riders also enjoy being able to
express themselves by modifying, upgrading and tuning their bikes.

While you have ample freedom to make changes, there are numerous state laws governing sport and cruiser motorcycle mirrors. Fortunately, this
 guide breaks it all down.

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Making Sense of the Law

Most states don’t have separate mirror laws for motorcycle riders. 
Instead, they typically group motorcycles in with other forms of road
 transit and cover them with special sub clauses or paragraphs in their
general vehicle codes.

In a few states, like Nebraska, you may lawfully operate a motorcycle
without any mirrors at all. [1] Of course, the fact that you can do so
legally doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

So how do you ensure that you’re on the right side of the law? Although
the federal government leaves things up to the states, following the
recommendations set by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, or NHTSA, is usually a smart starting point. If your 
bike meets NHTSA crash avoidance recommendations, it’s a good bet that
you’re riding safely and in line with most laws. [2]

Getting Specific

Your modifications or repairs to your bike might make it noncompliant
 with federal guidelines. Before purchasing or customizing a flashy new
ride, it’s wisest to consult with your state’s DMV for specific details.

For instance, a number of states, like California, Colorado, Illinois,
Hawaii, Georgia, Florida, Maryland and Washington, mandate that all
road-legal vehicles including motorcycles have to be equipped with at 
least one mirror that gives the driver no less than 200 feet of 
rear-facing visibility. Other states, like Delaware, Kentucky,
Tennessee and Kansas, just require rear-facing mirrors that are properly
sized or positioned to give the driver a view of the road behind them.
These differences matter in terms of your bike’s legality, so it’s 
important to know what’s correct for you.

How Many Mirrors Do I Need?

One other common variation in how the laws work from state to state is 
that different jurisdictions often require different numbers of mirrors
or mirror layouts. For instance, some statutes specify that at least one 
mirror has to be mounted on the left side of the vehicle. Others leave 
the particulars up in the air.

States like Arizona, Nevada and California demand that riders only 
operate vehicles that have mirrors on both sides. Once again, the devil’s in the details, so take the time to read up on your requirements.

Do I Need to Upgrade My Vintage Bike?

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Nobody likes the prospect of changing a classic motorcycle that they’ve 
spent blood, sweat and tears maintaining or restoring. Fortunately, you 
may be able to get away with leaving your throwback model as-is.

The secret to this trick lies in carefully scanning your state’s legal 
code to identify the specific date ranges that each law applies to. If 
your vintage ride was manufactured before the mirror regulation went
into effect, you might be grandfathered in.

The best way to find out for sure is to reach out to someone at the DMV 
for help with your situation. Asking about the rules when you register
 your vehicle can really clear up any confusion. Sending an email for 
written clarification may provide you with the evidence that you need to 
get out of a ticket if you’re flagged down by an overzealous officer who 
might not know the law.

Penalties & Consequences

Finally, bear in mind that your state is likely to be unique in how it treats rule breakers. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or worse for a seemingly small violation. Depending on where you live, this could mean jail time or hefty fines.

So should you install a new doubletake dual sport mirror or other upgrades? It all depends on where you register and ride your bike, and educating yourself is always the first step. Learn your local laws, and check out our other articles for more insights.

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Sources:

[1] http://www.safenebraska.org/files/7313/9206/9465/Motorcycle_Laws_and_Legal_Requirements.pdf

[2] https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/571.111

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