Virginia Motorcycle Laws: Know the Rules and Your Rights

We’ve been discussing motorcycle safety on the blog recently. And much of that advice can be applied to all motorcyclists. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding motorcycles, however, and it’s important to know them. You will find pretty much everywhere that there are extra requirements to legally operate a motorcycle above and beyond those for driving a car. Virginia is no exception to this rule. This post will give you the basics of motorcycle laws in Virginia.


Virginia residents who wish to operate a motorcycle must obtain a motorcycle classification on their driver’s license. There are three motorcycle classifications, M2, M3, and M. M2 means you are licensed to operate two-wheeled motorcycles. M3 means you are licensed for three-wheeled motorcycles. The M classification means that you are licensed to operate all motorcycles, whether two- or three-wheeled.

In order to obtain a motorcycle classification, you must pass a written knowledge test and pass either a skills class or a road test. While you are learning to ride a motorcycle, you can obtain a motorcycle learner’s permit, which is valid for one year. If you moved to Virginia from another state where you held a valid motorcycle license, you can transfer that classification to your Virginia license. Active duty military personnel who have completed a motorcycle training course during their service can use this qualification in place of a skills course or road test. Appropriate documentation is required.


If you own a motorcycle in Virginia, it must be registered just like any vehicle. You need a Virginia title, registration card, and license plate. Your motorcycle must have valid insurance that meets the minimum state requirements for the entire time it is registered in Virginia. Note that your license plate must be affixed to your motorcycle in a manner that is secure (does not swing or move around). The license plate must be clearly visible and legible, and you may not attach any item that might make it more difficult to read, such as colored plastic or a holder that obscures part of the plate number.

Safety Equipment

Motorcyclists are required to wear certain safety equipment when operating their motorcycles. Riders must wear a safety helmet. The helmet must be approved by one of three organizations: the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the Department of Transportation. It is illegal to sell any helmets that do not meet these standards in Virginia, so any helmet purchased from a reputable retailer should qualify. Riders are also required to wear eye protection. The eye protection can be included in the helmet if it is a full-face helmet, or it can be separate in the form of safety glasses or goggles.

HOV Lanes

Good news for those traveling in high-traffic areas: motorcyclists are exempt from HOV lane restrictions in Virginia. Motorcycles may use any and all HOV lanes in the Commonwealth.


Properly licensed motorcyclists are permitted on all roadways in Virginia, as well as all facilities built using public funds. It is illegal for any locality to impose rules or exclusions that apply only to motorcycles.

Riding Side by Side

Although it is illegal for vehicles to drive two abreast in a single lane, this law does not apply to motorcycles. Motorcycles may drive two abreast in a lane without issue.

Equipment Requirements

Motorcycles must be equipped with headlights, a rearview mirror, and a horn except under the specific circumstances of trail riding and endurance runs sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association. All motorcycles must also be equipped with brake lights. The exhaust system of the motorcycle must be in good working order and must be equipped with a muffler. Motorcycles must be fitted with safety glass or a windscreen.

Like all vehicles in Virginia, motorcycles must pass an annual safety inspection.

If you want to ride with a passenger, your motorcycle must be properly equipped. Specifically, it must have either two seats or a seat designed to seat two, and there must be separate foot rests for the passenger.

For more information of Virginia motorcycle laws, check out the DMV guide.

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