Final Virginia Motorcycle Legislative Update

For our purposes, we are now through the legislative session. Both HB 1700 and SB 836 have passed both chambers of the General Assembly and are on their way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Both bills will become law as of July 1st of this year. Let’s re-cap what each of these bills mean to Virginia motorcyclists.

HB 1700 started out as a bill with two purposes. The first was to allow the LED type of auxiliary lighting on motorcycles in order to improve side visibility. The second was to eliminate the five second limitation that a motorcycle brake light may modulate. Due to strong opposition from the State Police, the language concerning auxiliary lighting was stripped from the bill with instruction from legislators who appeared sympathetic to our objective for VCOM and the State Police to work on language for next year that is acceptable to both organizations. The language concerning brake lights on motorcycles survived and will become law on July 1st of this year. Current code states that a motorcycle brake light may modulate for up to five seconds when the brake is applied, but after that it must burn steady. Unfortunately, a motorcycle with a smaller brake light can blend into the brake lights of larger motor vehicles in front of it, thus camouflaging the motorcycle from vehicles approaching from the rear. Allowing the brake light to continue to modulate while the brake is engaged makes the motorcycle more conspicuous and more likely to be seen by drivers approaching from the rear. Virginia motorcyclists will now be afforded the right to have that protection.

SB 836 allows motorcyclists to stand on both footrests under certain circumstances. Under current law, a motorcyclist must ride only upon the permanently attached seat. This is contrary to what is taught throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Basic Rider Course. The BRC teaches that it is appropriate to stand on the footrests when crossing obstacles such as railroad tracks and potholes. The problem is that motorcyclists have been receiving tickets for doing exactly what they were taught to do. SB 836 corrects that problem. As of July 1st of this year, motorcyclists will be allowed to stand on their foot rests when safety dictates. VCOM attempted to pass broader language to simply allow the practice under any circumstance, but that attempt met with strong resistance in the Senate Transportation Committee.

With this change in the law, the question may arise as to who decides when safety dictates standing on the foot rests. VCOM’s position is that the rider should make that decision. We will watch to see how this change iis received by law enforcement. If any rider receives a citation for standing on their foot rests, please contact me and we will represent you in court at no cost. Our hope is that this change will rectify the problem, but if it persists, we will go back to the General Assembly with additional ammunition to seek further changes.

As always if anyone has any questions or comments about either of these bills, or about any other matters concerning laws affecting motorcyclists, please feel free to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group