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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Montana, United States 2021

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Montana, United States 2021

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Montana, United States 2021

Montana is referred to as “Big Sky Country” because there are hardly any tall buildings throughout the state to block your view of the blue sky. The landscape is divided between the flat plains towards the east and the high mountains towards the west. Because much of the natural landscape is left unspoiled, most motorcyclists see Montana as a region perfect to go on light-hearted excursions on their favorite vehicles.

However, before you can take your motorcycle out to explore the Montana highways, you first have to attain a motorcycle license that is valid in the state. A motorcycle license is not just another I.D. card. It serves as proof that you put in the time to educate yourself and practiced riding on your motorcycle.

You also have to be mindful of the rules of the road in Montana. Besides standard traffic laws, there are extra precautions you need to take that are specific to handling a motorcycle. While riding a motorcycle can be more thrilling than driving a car, it can also potentially be more dangerous.

The purpose of this article is to inform you of motorcycle laws and the licensing process for Montana as of 2021.

1. Montana Motorcycle Insurance

According to Montana Code Annotated § 61-6-103, you must always carry documentation of your Montana motorcycle insurance whenever you are operating a motorcycle on the roads or highways. You are required to show proof of ownership to local law enforcement when asked to confirm that you are financially liable in case of an accident.

To ensure you meet the standards for liability insurance coverage in Montana, your motorcycle insurance plan must be able to pay the minimum costs for the following accident-related fees:

  • $25,000 for any bodily injury or death of one person per accident
  • $50,000 for any bodily injuries or deaths of multiple people per accident
  • $20,000 for any property damage sustained per accident
  • In the event that the bills for medical care and property damages exceed the minimum costs of your required liability insurance coverage, you may want to consider acquiring additional forms of insurance so you do not have to resort to your personal funds.
  • Collision coverage provides protection in case your motorcycle suffers damage in an accident regardless of who is at fault
  • Comprehensive coverage provides protection in case your motorcycle is damaged due to fire, water, theft, or vandalism
  • Uninsured/underinsured coverage provides protection when dealing with an at-fault driver who either does not own insurance or has insurance that cannot fully cover the accident-related fees

To help you memorize the guidelines for what you need in Montana motorcycle insurance, you can check up on the section in Montana Code Annotated.

2. Montana Motorcycle Helmet Laws

As explained by Montana Code Annotated § 61-9-417, if you are below the age of 18 then you are required to wear an approved motorcycle helmet that fits the parameters set by the Montana Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.

While adults over the age of 18 can choose not to wear a motorcycle helmet, it is highly recommended that every motorcyclist put them on anyway whenever the vehicle is in motion. Considering the majority of motorcycle-related fatalities are caused by severe head injuries, a motorcycle helmet will help mitigate that should you be thrown from your motorcycle or collide with another vehicle.

There are two types of motorcycle helmets that you should look for that will maximize functionality and fulfill the requirements set by the Montana Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation: three-quarter helmets and full-face helmets.

Listed below is a table of the pros and cons of both three-quarter helmets and full-face helmets:

Montana Motorcycle Helmet Laws

To review the rules for wearing a motorcycle helmet in Montana, you can check out this section of the Montana Code Annotated.

If you wish to go over what to look for in an approved motorcycle helmet in Montana, you can find the details in the Montana Motorcycle Supplement.

3. Montana Motorcycle License Laws

For you to be legally permitted to operate a motorcycle in Montana, you will have to obtain a motorcycle endorsement for your Montana driver’s license.

If you have never ridden on a motorcycle before or are a minor, you will have to apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit. While you are allowed to practice on a motorcycle, there will be plenty of restrictions placed on you meant for your own safety.

Regardless of age, you have to prove that you know how to operate a motorcycle safely with little to no mistakes. Learning the basics by taking a driver education course, reading the motorcycle manual, and passing the written and road tests help you to do that.

When you finally receive your Montana motorcycle endorsement, you will be able to ride your vehicle however you want within reason.

3.1 Types of Montana Motorcycle Licenses:

Listed below in this table are the requirements for earning different Montana motorcycle licenses as well as describing the restrictions and capabilities that determine what you are allowed to do on the road:

Types of Montana Motorcycle Licenses

While the minimum age for applying for either a Montana motorcycle endorsement is 16, it is also possible to get one at 15 years old if you provide proof of completing a driver’s education course approved by the Montana Department of Justice and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

When applying for a Montana motorcycle learner’s permit, you will have to pay a fee of $5.00

When applying for a Montana motorcycle endorsement, it is an additional $0.50 for each year that your driver’s license is active.

If you wish to get an overview of the motorcycle licensing process in Montana, you can find the qualifications at the Montana Department of Justice.

3.2 Montana Motorcycle License Test:

The written portion of the Montana motorcycle license test consists of 25 multiple choice questions based on content that is covered in the motorcycle manual. You need to get at least 80% or 20 correct answers to get a passing grade.

The riding portion of the Montana motorcycle license test involves doing exercises on your motorcycle in either a controlled environment or on the streets. You will then engage in a Motorcycle Operator Skills Test where you have to demonstrate different motorcycle riding techniques. You may have to complete at least eight to nine exercises in total. These may include the following:

  • Accelerating
  • Sharp/slow turns
  • Normal stop
  • Quick stop
  • Obstacle turns
  • U-turn
  • Upshifting/downshifting

If there is indication that the brakes or any of the key functions on your motorcycle are not working properly, you will not be permitted to take the Montana motorcycle license test.

To help give you a preview of the motorcycle maneuvers you would have to do for the riding portion of the motorcycle license test, you can find the excerpt of the Motorcycle Endorsement Skill Examination.

3.3 Montana Motorcycle Passenger Laws

As described in Montana Code Annotated § 61-8-359, you are not allowed to carry a passenger on your motorcycle unless it is designed to fulfill that purpose. Your motorcycle must have a seat that is big enough to fit two people or a separate seat designated solely for the passenger. There must also be footrests to help the passenger remain in their seat even when your vehicle does sudden movements.

Your passenger must be facing forward with one leg hanging on both sides. If your passenger is below the age of 18, he/she is required to wear an approved motorcycle helmet according to the Montana Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.

While you may be the one at the handlebars, your passenger is still subject to the same rights and responsibilities that come with operating a motorcycle in Montana. Your passenger must be willing to listen to your instructions so as to ensure you follow motorcycle traffic laws, guarantee the safety of yourself and your passenger, and do not cause any inconveniences for other drivers.

If your passenger fails to comply with motorcycle safety guidelines, you will be held accountable for his/her insubordinate behavior.

If you want to look over how to handle a motorcycle passenger in Montana, you can check out this section in the Montana Code Annotated.

3.4 Montana Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws

Currently, lane splitting has not been declared legal in Montana. However, when October 1, 2021 comes around, that will change. Montana will become part of the minority that deems lane splitting as a legal practice for motorcyclists alongside California.

According to the law, lane splitting or “lane filtering” includes passing another vehicle in the same lane as you that is currently slowed or stopped in traffic that is moving in the same direction as you.

For it to be safe to engage in lane splitting, the lane you are in has to be wide enough for you to transition over in between the lanes. You cannot move 20 mph faster than the flow of traffic. If you begin to suspect that the flow of traffic will make it unsafe to continue lane splitting, return to the center of one of the adjacent lanes.

To read the full law, you can find a copy provided by the Montana Legislative Services Division.

3.5 Montana Motorcycle Safety Features

Your responsibilities as a motorcyclist are not limited to how you behave while on the Montana roads. You are also held accountable for the upkeep of your motorcycle’s functions.

Before you leave to go on a motorcycle ride, you should make it a point to check over your vehicle and see if there are any signs of damage. Enough exposure to moisture, debris, etc. and the motorcycle components can start to break down. If you are not careful, your motorcycle can suddenly break down due to mechanical problems at the most inopportune times. Like when you are passing the local law enforcement or following traffic moving at high speeds.

To make sure this does not happen, you should bring in your motorcycle for periodic inspections. Listed below are the safety features that you should confirm are equipped or are in working order:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Windshield (optional)
  • Handlebars
  • Brake system
  • Controls
  • Headlight(s) (1 to 2)
  • Tail light
  • Brake light (Stop lamp)
  • License plate light
  • Rear reflector
  • Turn signal lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Spark arrestor
  • Rearview mirror

If you wish to look at the regulations for motorcycle equipment, you can look up the features in a chapter of the Montana Code Annotated.

4. Montana Motorcycle Exhaust Noise Laws

As stated in Montana Code Annotated § 61-9-418, all motorcycles in Montana are required to have an exhaust muffler while operating on the roads and highways. The exhaust muffler has to be kept in good condition with no signs of damage and be given constant maintenance.

If you detect there are problems with suppressing the noise coming from your motorcycle’s exhaust system, you are permitted to operate on the side of the road. However, you can only do so as long as it is equipped with a spark arrestor and the noise limit has not exceeded 96 decibels yet.

When making sure that the exhaust system is staying below the noise decibel limit, you will have to measure from at least 50 feet away from your motorcycle.

Depending on which year your motorcycle was manufactured, the noise decibel limit may differ. Here is a list of the noise limit parameters that your motorcycle’s exhaust system has to comply with based on the model:

  • For motorcycles built before 1970, the noise limit must fall at or below 92 decibels
  • For motorcycles built between 1969 and 1973, the noise limit must fall at or below 88 decibels
  • For motorcycles built between 1972 and 1975, the noise limit must fall at or below 86 decibels
  • For motorcycles built between 1974 and 1978, the noise limit must fall at or below 80 decibels
  • For motorcycles built between 1977 and 1988, the noise limit must fall at or below 75 decibels
  • For motorcycles built after 1987, the noise limit must fall at or below 70 decibels

If you wish to know the decibel value for a motorcycle manufactured during a specific year, you can check out this section of the Montana Code Annotated.

5. Takeaway

While the best part of being on a motorcycle in Montana is traveling along the scenic byways and taking in the sights, you only get the chance to enjoy them if you take the time to worry about the important duties that come with being a motorcyclist.

After sitting through all the classes and undergoing the trials to qualify you for a Montana motorcycle license, there is still plenty of paperwork to go through. While hopefully you will not end up in many situations where Montana motorcycle insurance will be required, it is just extra assurance to protect your finances in case you encounter unforeseen trouble on the road.

Whenever your motorcycle is parked, this should be the time when you make sure your vehicle’s components are in good condition and that you have the necessary motorcycle safety gear gathered. Your motorcycle helmet should be intact and secure around your head. The motorcycle’s safety features should be working even when you are not using them. The motorcycle’s exhaust system should make a comforting purr but never should become a loud roaring.

Even when you have finally gotten your motorcycle rolling, focus on what is right in front of you instead of looking ahead to your final destination. Especially if you have a passenger whose well-being is in your hands while swerving along the busy roads.

You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the factors you have to take into consideration when both on and off your motorcycle. But just as lane splitting becoming legal in the near future will open avenues for motorcyclists in Montana, you just have to take it all in stride and just be careful while enjoying the experience of riding a motorcycle.

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