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What are Tennessee's motorcycle safety requirements?

Tennessee motorcyclists and those visiting from other states can enjoy our scenic highways and the wind at their back. While riding through the Volunteer State, motorcyclists should know the safety requirements.

In Tennessee, anyone on a motorcycle must wear a helmet. While some nearby states such as Kentucky and Arkansas require helmet use for riders 20 and younger, or even a little further north where Illinois is one of three states with no helmet requirements, Tennessee requires all riders and operators wear head safety gear.

What helmets can motorcyclists use?

All helmets must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards and be certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the Snell Foundation, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Other required safety gear includes use of one of the following items with a helmet:

  • Windshield
  • Safety goggles
  • Impact resistant glasses
  • Face shield

What other safety requirements does Tennessee have?

Besides helmet use, Tennessee laws include these additional safety protocols:

  • Red light exception: Motorcyclists may proceed only after stopping completely at lighted intersection, but in the event of a wreck the motorcyclist going through the light is likely to be at fault.
  • Registration: The motorcyclist must display their registration on the rear of the vehicle, securely fastened in a horizontal position and at least 12 inches from the ground.
  • Headlights: Motorcycles must have one or two headlights and they must remain on at all times. Modulating headlights are legal but blue headlights are not.
  • Tail lights: Using a flashing system for brake lights is legal, but they must flash for five seconds then change to continuous red light.
  • Operator and passenger seats: No one, child or adult, can ride in a position that interferes with the controls, such as in front of the operator. There is no minimum passenger age for children, but they must be able to sit on a motorcycle passenger seat and have their feet touching the stock foot pegs or boards.
  • High Occupancy Vehicle (H.O.V.) lanes: Motorcycles can use the H.O.V. lanes.
  • Lane sharing or splitting: Motorcycles are entitled to full use of the lane. They cannot overtake and pass in a lane occupied by another vehicle. Two motorcycles can ride side-by-side. Motorcycles cannot operate between adjacent lanes or rows, and they cannot split lanes.

These requirements are designed to keep motorcyclists safe on the road with other motor vehicles, but even motorcyclists following all the rules can still be victims of a wreck.

However, riders who follow these requirements can reduce their odds of getting into a wreck or possibly lessen the impact of a car making a mistake.

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