California roads often include a mix of motorcycles, trucks and passenger cars, but accidents may affect motorcyclists, drivers and passengers very differently. In many cases, motorcycle riders involved in accidents have improper licenses and/or driving records with traffic convictions. Ensuring motorcyclists receive adequate training and meet state licensing requirements may help reduce the risk of accidents.
According to crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many motorcycle accidents involve riders without proper licenses or clean driving records. In 2017, nearly 30% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal accidents did not have valid licenses. This percentage was far greater than the number of unlicensed passenger-vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes, which was only 13%. Additionally, motorcycle riders involved in fatal accidents were more likely than car drivers to have previously committed traffic violations, such as speeding and driving while impaired. Fatal crash statistics also indicated that over 21% of motorcycle riders involved had suspensions or revocations included in their license histories.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has specific requirements for motorcycle licenses. There are two types of licenses available: Class M1 and Class M2. Class M2 licenses allow individuals to operate motorized bicycles, scooters and mopeds. The state requires a person to obtain a Class M1 license to operate a two-wheeled motorcycle.
In California, individuals of all ages must show proof of training and/or knowledge before obtaining a Class M1 or Class M2 license. For example, individuals under 21 years old must complete a motorcycle rider training course and provide a certificate as proof in order to meet licensing requirements. They also must pass a motorcycle-specific knowledge test. Individuals over 21 years old may choose to take a motorcycle driving test from the DMV instead of providing a training course certificate.