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For motorcyclists, summer weather provides great opportunities for getting out on the road. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see an increase in motorcycle accidents during the summer months. And when those accidents do happen, they are a good reminder to take motorcycle safety seriously. One of the most basic safety measures for motorcyclists is having a motorcycle designation on their drivers’ license. It is a simple, but very important, step towards making sure that all bikers have a basic set of knowledge and skills to keep themselves, and their passengers, safe on the road.

In Virginia (VA), it is required that anyone who drives a motorcycle have a motorcycle license—either a “Class M Designation” on their regular driver’s license or a motorcycle only license for individuals without a regular driver’s license.

Currently, the process for obtaining a Class M Designation normally includes:

  • · A vision screening to determine that your eyesight and peripheral vision meet Virginia state standards for safely operating a motor vehicle;
  • · Taking and passing a motorcycle knowledge exam, a test of 25 questions based on information from the DMV’s Motorcycle Operator Manual
  • · Holding a motorcycle learner’s permit for 30 days or 9 months, for drivers under the age of 19; and,
  • · Passing the motorcycle road skills test, which includes exercises to measure your ability to handle a motorcycle, such as starting, accelerating, shifting, turning, braking and swerving.

For drivers who have a certificate of completion from a Virginia Rider Training Program, the last two requirements—the learner’s permit and the road skills test—may be waived or temporarily suspended, depending on when the training program was completed and the age of the driver.

Motorcycles are powerful vehicles, they behave much differently than cars on the roadway, and they offer significant less protection to both the driver and passenger. Because of this, anyone who wants to operate a motorcycle needs to go through the process to obtain a motorcycle license. Not only is it the law, but it is a key part of motorcycle safety.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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